Robert Mikos and Cindy Kam, Do Citizens Care About Federalism? An Experimental Test

Robert Mikos (UC Davis-Law) and Cindy Kam (UC Davis-Political Science) have posted Do Citizens Care About Federalism? An Experimental Test on SSRN.  The article describes the authors’ empirical study which they say demonstrates that citizen preferences for federalism (state-centered authority and autonomy) play a role in shaping public opinion in policy debates.  Specifically, they claim that when political elites advance federalism values it can weaken public support for federal action within a sphere where citizens have a preference for state-based control.  Because issues of federalism often lie at the heart of corporate law debates, this research is relevant to corporate policy debates on the legitimacy of federal action regulating corporations.  Here is the abstract:

The ongoing debate over the political safeguards of federalism has essentially ignored the role that citizens might play in restraining federal power. Scholars have assumed that citizens care only about policy outcomes and will invariably support congressional legislation that satisfies their substantive policy preferences, no matter the cost to state powers. Scholars thus typically turn to institutions —  the courts or institutional features of the political process — to cabin congressional authority. We argue that ignoring citizens is a mistake. We propose a new theory of the political safeguards of federalism in which citizens help to safeguard state authority. We also test our theory using evidence from a nationally representative survey experiment that focuses on the timely issue of physician-assisted suicide. We find that citizens are not single-mindedly interested in policy outcomes; trust in state governments and federalism beliefs, on the urging of political elites, reduce their willingness to support a federal ban on physician-assisted suicide.

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