The Party or the Purse? Unequal Representation in the US Senate


Lax J, Phillips J, Zelizer A. The Party or the Purse? Unequal Representation in the US Senate. American Political Science Review [Internet]. 2019;113 (4) :917-940.


Recent work on US policymaking argues that responsiveness to public opinion is distorted bymoney, in that the preferences of the rich matter much more than those of lower-income Americans. A second distortion—partisan biases in responsiveness—has been less well studied and is often
ignored or downplayed in the literature on affluent influence. We are the first to evaluate, in tandem, these two potential distortions in representation. We do so using 49 Senate roll-call votes from 2001 to 2015. We find that affluent influence is overstated and itselfcontingenton partisanship—party trumps the purse when senators have to take sides. The poor getwhatthey wantmore often fromDemocrats. The rich getwhatthey wantmoreoftenfromRepublicans, butonly ifRepublican constituents side with the rich. Thus,partisanship induces, shapes, and constrains affluent influenc

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