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"Mass Support for Redistricting Reform"

Dan Smith emailed this paper to me. Here is a bit of it:

Mass Support for Redistricting Reform: Partisanship and Representational Winners and Losers by
Caroline J. Tolbert, University of Iowa; Daniel A. Smith, University of Florida; John C. Green, University of Akron

This paper examines popular support for altering electoral institutions in two bellwether American states—California and Ohio. On Tuesday, November 8, 2005, a majority of voters in each state decisively struck down statewide ballot initiatives that would have created nonpartisan redistricting commissions. ...

Riker (1962, 1986) argued that political elites act strategically, manipulating institutions for their electoral benefit. Building on the literature, we find compelling evidence that the mass public may also act strategically when making decisions about institutional change, as electoral losers are significantly more likely to support or vote for modifying electoral institutions. We find support for redistricting reform is contingent on loser status at the statewide legislative level and district level. While the findings are mixed regarding district level representation (stronger findings from Ohio), in general, we present evidence that “losers” statewide and at the district level are more likely to support efforts to create more competitive elections through redistricting reform. While it may be in the self-interest of statewide legislative losers (Democrats in Ohio and Republicans in California) to support changing the way redistricting is determined, some of these individuals (in particular, African Americans) may benefit at the district level from the current method of gerrymandering, which dampens their support for broader institutional change. Beyond defining losers by candidate preferences in the last election or perceptions of being an electoral loser, we find evidence that individuals who are electoral losers (represented by elected officials of a different political party at the statewide and district levels) are significantly more supportive of institutional change. We also find evidence that race and loser status may interact, shaping voting behavior. The analysis adds weight to a growing body of literature suggesting that strategic voting matters, especially in terms of “reforming the republic” (Donovan and Bowler 2004). As such, the research may have implications for future attempts to reform American electoral institutions in other states.

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