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Research Projects

Congress has failed to make even incremental progress on pressing problems in recent decades. While polarization is certainly part of the reason, almost a quarter of legislators reject compromises, even when those compromises move policy toward what they say they prefer. Those legislators who report that their voters – especially their primary voters – are likely to punish compromise are more likely to reject these “half-loaf” offers. Although evidence from survey experiments on a representative sample of the mass public suggests that most voters reward legislators for compromising, approximately a third of a legislators’ co-partisan primary voters who oppose the particular compromise being offered will punish the legislator for supporting a half-loaf offer. These patterns suggest that legislators are responding to a small fraction of the electorate, at the expense of representing others who do want compromise. The book concludes with consideration of possible solutions to rejection of these compromises.

Click here to watch Sarah's talk about why legislators don't compromise and what to do about it


Legislative Research

Driving Legislators' Policy Preferences: Constituent Commutes and Gas Taxes

In this article, we examine the impact of constituent commuting patterns on state legislators' positions on gas tax policy in the United States. We use a variety of data sources, including GIS mapping and legislative surveys, to show that legislators representing districts with longer average commuting times are more likely to support increased gas taxes, even if those taxes may be unpopular with some of their constituents. The study highlights the influence of individual interests and district-level factors on lawmakers' policy preferences and has implications for understanding the relationship between transportation policy and democratic representation.

Legislators do not harness voter support for disaster preparedness

In this article, we examine the relationship between public support for disaster preparedness and legislative action in the United States. We use data from national surveys and legislative roll-call voting records to show that there is a significant disconnect between the preferences of constituents and the policies enacted by legislators on this issue. The study underscores the importance of understanding the institutional and political factors that shape policy outcomes in the context of natural disasters.

Policy Entrepreneurs, Legislators, and Agenda Setting: Information and Influence

In this article we explore the roles of policy entrepreneurs and legislators in the agenda-setting process. We use data from a survey of state legislators in the United States to analyze the factors that influence lawmakers' decisions to prioritize specific policy issues. The study highlights the importance of information and influence in shaping the legislative agenda and has implications for understanding the dynamics of policymaking in democratic systems.


Professors Sarah Anderson, Andrew Plantinga, and Naomi Tague lead an interdisciplinary team in pursuit of new strategies for managing wildfire under conditions of climate change. The research initiative facilitates collaboration among natural and social scientists, with the intention of filling this knowledge gap and developing new management strategies to prepare for and respond to wildfires in a changing climate.


California Grizzly Research Network

The California Grizzly Research Network promotes a more informed scholarly and public discussion about the past, present, and future of grizzly bears in California through rigorous, interdisciplinary research. Our first goal is to develop a community of scholars with the expertise and capacity to answer key historical, scientific, and management questions about grizzlies in California. Our second goal is to advance scholarly knowledge about the reintroduction and recovery of imperiled wildlife. Our third goal is to contribute to a broader discussion about the restoration and rewilding of ecosystems in an era of global environmental change. 


We’re six months away from one of the most consequential midterm elections in modern history, and Americans are fed up with Congress. Politicians have gotten a bad rap throughout history, but today’s legislators are setting record lows in approval ratings and public trust. What gives? Why do they disappoint us so often? Are they really ignoring our needs and demands, or are we misunderstanding the challenges they face?
In this episode, Sarah Anderson shows that it’s a little of both: politicians don’t listen to all constituents equally, but they also can’t just snap their fingers and fulfill our wishes.

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