Saturday, May 20, 2017

Call Your Congressperson?

Unfortunately, my research strongly indicates that high-volume constituent contact on policy issues has at best a negligible effect, and at worst a negative effect, on legislators’ actions. The next time you’re asked to call your member of Congress about a policy issue, you might want to put down the phone.

  Boston Globe
Can this be true? Has the Globe become some government tool with a disinformation campaign designed to keep us quiet?
I conducted an experiment on hundreds of state legislators in the United States, randomly assigning each to one of four groups. Some of these legislators were asked to imagine what they would do if they received six e-mails about a hypothetical bill (a lower volume of e-mails). Others were asked what they would do if they received 60 e-mails about a hypothetical bill (a higher volume of e-mails). One hypothetical bill was about gun control (a higher-attention issue); the other was about the labeling of genetically modified foods (a lower-attention issue).

The results weren’t promising for people who believe that constituent contact alters policy. On the high-attention issue, there was no difference in support between the legislators who received the high volume of e-mails and those who received the low volume of e-mails.


Support among those legislators who were told they had received more e-mails was half that of those who were told they had received fewer e-mails.
Okay, but why should we believe the legislators answered truthfully?  Maybe they want to discourage us.
But the issue here isn’t simply a problem of processing too much information. Instead, it’s that most legislators already think they know how constituents feel about issues. They conduct polls in their districts. They learn about what constituents want through campaigns and elections. They also belong to political parties that have fairly defined ideologies, and they make specific policy promises in the course of an election.
Which, I think, is more key to the problem of contacting your Congressperson. They're party hacks.

I still sign petitions from time to time, but I quit writing to my Congress Critter when I realized that the only feedback  I ever got was a form letter restating the Congress Critter's stance on the issue, which I knew the Critter didn't send him/herself, and I assumed (safely, I'm sure) they also didn't read my letter. That and the time in 2003 I marched with an organized group of a hundred or so war protesters  to my Congress Critter's office, and we weren't even allowed to go in. The asshole sent an aide out to the parking lot with a visitor log book where we were allowed to sign our names if we so wished.  Personally, I thought we should have stormed the office.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

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