Urban Ideologies and Their Influence on City Governments

The Economist's Daily Chart recently featured an article by researchers from MIT and UCLA soon to be published in The American Political Science Review.  Using pooled data from seven large-scale opinion surveys conducted between 2000 and 2011 the researchers, Chris Tausanovitch (UCLA) and Christopher Warshaw (MIT) developed measures of public policy preference (city policy conservatism) in 51 cities with populations of more than 250,000 and investigated the degree to which city governments are responsive to the policy preferences of their citizens.

Their measure of city policy conservatism shows, unsurprisingly, that "San Francisco, Washington DC, and Seattle are three of the most liberal cities in the country [while] Mesa, AZ, Oklahoma City, OK and Virginia Beach, VA are three of the most conservative cities."

Their findings concerning the responsiveness of city governments go against "the consensus in the literature on municipal politics [...] that the policy decisions of city governments are unresponsive to the views of their citizens."  Indeed, Tausanovitch and Warshaw found that liberal cities get more liberal policies, collect more taxes and have substantially higher expenditures per capita, and have less regressive tax systems.  These bivariate relationships held even when accounting for possible confounding factors, such as the size, wealth, and ethnic diversity levels of each city:
"City policy conservatism has a robust, statistically significant, and substantively important relationship with the type of policy that cities implement. [...]  In contrast to much of this literature, we find that a broad array of city policy outcomes are not apolitical, nor are they divorced from national political schisms.  This suggests that not only is city government political, but that it may have more in common with state and national politics than previous scholars have recognized." 

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
Attitudes toward Electoral Accountability: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3432)
Theories of American Politics (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3053)
History and Politics Out Loud (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3145)
Frederique Laubepin

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