Poster Paper: Reshaping a policy subsystem: fusion voting in Connecticut

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Clifford Frasier, New York University

This study demonstrates how systematic use of cross-endorsement ballots (“fusion voting”) in Connecticut corresponded to a change in economic policymaking. The relationship is important because public affairs scholars seek to know what conditions shape pathways between public opinion and policy.

In 2004 under the banner of The Working Families Party (“WFP”), a coalition tied to organized labor began treating Connecticut state legislators with the possibility of receiving ballot cross-endorsements. Several years later, Massachusetts labor groups tried but failed to legalize (by ballot initiative) fusion voting – intending to treat the Massachusetts legislature in the same fashion as neighboring Connecticut. 

This study assumes fusion voting is not correlated with anything systematic about contemporary Connecticut because only a handful of state laws allowing for this type of ballot survive as artifacts of 19th century politics. The random-like assignment of progressive ballot endorsements to Connecticut (but not to Massachusetts) legislators allows for an appropriate comparison between the two states (states similar in terms of ideology, union density and region) on economic policies important to organized labor.

Outcome measures for policymaking are chosen to be comparable across election cycles and state context – variables such as legislative ideal points and minimum wage bill co-sponsorships. 

From this quasi-experimental comparison design with repeated measures, the analysis suggests that as the WFP treated the Connecticut legislature with cross-endorsements, legislative behavior on economic policies such as minimum wage bills moved in the progressive direction. This study concludes that labor groups may have reshaped legislative behavior on policies important to its coalition. Interpreting these findings, the paper integrates the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) of policy studies into the ‘pluralist-elitist’ debate on the role of political groups in American politics.