Policy Responsiveness in 51 American Communities (Populist Pluralism)

Orthodox pluralism also claimed that the democratic structures of American communities ensured that their governments were generally responsiveness to citizen preferences, considered in the aggregate.  It suggested that rules of electoral accountability gave officials incentives to respond positively to the preferences of most citizens but that voting was too blunt of a method for officials to differentiate among the preferences of various kinds of voters.  Orthodox pluralism did not claim that city officials would always respond to dominant public opinion, as they also had responsibility to make independent judgments about what was in the best interests of the community, and that economic notables, organized interests, municipal bureaucrats, and other activists in the city could influence such judgments,  But orthodox pluralism suggested that officials would not be systematically biased against lower-income and minority voters.  To examine and refine these notions, Russell Getter, a terrific colleague of mine at KU, and eventually Terry Clark, a leading sociologists at the University of Chicago, investigated these elements of orthodox pluralism that came to be understood at the more “populist” strain in pluralist theory.

To refine the idea that “the will of the people” was a key determinant of the public policies of American cities,  Getter and I built upon a data set of  many political, economic, and social characteristics of 51 community that had been previously developed by Clark.  The first two papers below discuss some of the concepts and hypotheses that we wanted to develop and test in this research.  Perhaps the key conceptual advances we made were (a) to differentiate between responsiveness to independent measures of citizen preferences, citizen preferences as perceived by public officials, and citizen preferences as indicated by the net weight of demands of various citizen groups, and (b) to assess “responsiveness bias” by measuring the differences in responsiveness of policymakers to those relatively well-off and those relatively poor economically as well as to differential (or biased) responsiveness to white and minority citizens.  The next three articles provide the results, and suggest that high and equal responsiveness is not as common as orthodox pluralism had suggested.   The final paper in this file is not really an article; its a manual that Getter, Clark, and I developed for the American Political Science Association to facilitate teaching undergraduates about the theories and methods that were becoming more prevalent in the training of political science (and sociology) majors.  It allowed students to develop and test their own hypotheses about the conditions when the populist element of orthodox pluralism were and were not achieved.

Responsiveness to Citizens Demands and Preferences: Reflections on Past Findings and Future Research



 After several years of trying to contribute to understanding substantive representation, I found the need to address a variety of analytical concerns that had arisen among professionals,  The following article addresses these concerns.

Citizen preferences and policy responsiveness


Responsiveness to Citizen Preferences and Societal Problems in American Communities



Group Representation in Urban Bureaucracies



Responsiveness Bias in 51 American Communities

AJPS 1977

Contextual Bases of Responsiveness to Citizen Demands and Group Preferences



Structural Sources of Unequal Responsiveness to Group Demands in American Cities

WPQ 1983


Policy Responsiveness and Fiscal Strain in 51 American Communities (A Setups Manual)