Research

Publications

Langehennig, Stefani R., Joseph Zamadics, and Jennifer Wolak. “Policy Accountability and State Legislative Approval.” Forthcoming, Political Research Quarterly.

We examine whether the public’s approval of their state legislature reflect their satisfaction with the outputs of state government. We use survey responses from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study to consider the roots of public approval of state legislatures and find that people are more likely to voice approval of their state legislature when it produces policy outcomes congruent with their interests. Liberals view their state legislature more positively when policy outputs are liberal, while conservatives reward their state legislature when policy outcomes are conservative.  We also leverage the CCES’s panel data from 2012 to 2014 to show that changes in state policy liberalism inform changes in state legislative approval.

Projects in Progress

Dissertation: In it to Win it: Creating the Federal Budget in an Era of Regular Disorder

My dissertation draws on thirty years of unique data to investigate how various political actors bargain in a time when the idealized budget process, otherwise known as the “regular order”, has dissipated. I examine whose policy preferences prevail across different stages of budgeting when actors engage in bargaining tactics distinct to crafting appropriations legislation. Previous research analyzes bargaining techniques and how different institutional factors influence budgetary outcomes. However, none to date have studied the impact that non-conventional negotiation strategies have on the preferences of actors who formulate budgetary policies. Further, there remains a dearth of research on who “wins” at different stages of the budget process, which I argue do not all play out the same. Using an original dataset of policy preferences from appropriations and conference committee reports spanning 1974-2016, I assess the conditions that explain why the policy preferences of some actors – namely, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President – prevail over others in the budget process.

conference

Recurring Legislation in the United States Congress (with E. Scott Adler, funded by the Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative)

The Recurring Legislation Projects examines political agendas and recurring legislation in the U.S. Congress. The project helps us to understand Congress’s ability to fulfill its legislative responsibilities by gauging its success in renewing and updating the hundreds of existing programs and laws that are set to expire on a periodic basis. We are identifying and tracking all expiring provisions in legislation enacted by Congress since World War II. The data aim to provide a more nuanced perspective on Congress’s legislative performance and its ability to meet governing demand over time and across different issue areas.

Under Review

Parinandi, Chinnu, Stefani R. Langehennig, and Mark Trautmann. “Tracing Diffusion among Individual Legislators.” Revise and resubmit, Policy Studies Journal.

Existing policy diffusion research has focused predominantly on analyzing collective decision-making at the point of policy adoption. In this project, we evaluate diffusion at the level of the individual legislator and specifically examine whether external cues play a stronger role in legislator decision-making when it comes to cosponsoring versus voting to adopt legislation. Leveraging a unique dataset of successful and failed bills of efforts across the American states to adopt renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) that spans roughly twenty-five years and includes thousands of observations, we provide an institutional corroboration to recent experimental work showing how ideological biases can be overcome, and reveal that interdependence exerts differential amounts of in influence at different points of the lawmaking process.

Adler, E. Scott, Stefani R. Langehennig, and Ryan W. Bell. “Congressional Capacity and Reauthorizations.” Chapter in Congressional Capacity, edited by Lee Drutman, Tim LaPira, and Kevin Kosar. Under review.

c10The capacity of Congress to govern is increasingly a concern. In this paper we focus on one fundamental and sizable responsibility of lawmakers in Washington – renewing and updating the vast array of federal programs and agencies that are authorized for only a limited period of time and must be renewed periodically. Using the United States Code, we collect all legislative expirations and track their renewal over time. We reveal that expiring authorizations are more prevalent in some issue areas than in others. We also find that across the entirety of federal policy Congress has increasing difficulty keeping up with the growing number of expired programs and agencies. Finally, we find that partisan divisiveness and public mood for more government activism within an areas of federal policy are significantly related to Congress’s ability renew expiring legislation. Our findings suggest that temporary authorizations reveal important information about what Congress capacity in a way not examined by previous research.

Stapleton, Carey E. and Stefani R. Langehennig. “Bartels Reconsidered in the Age of Polarization.” Under review.

Given the magnitude of polarization in the contemporary era, is partisanship still the most important driver of voting decisions in presidential elections as originally posited by Bartels (2000)? We extend Bartels’s original analysis on the changing importance of partisanship in presidential voting through the 2016 presidential election, and provide a more fully specifi ed model of vote choice to ensure any changes in the role of partisanship are not driven by an omitted variable. In the bivariate model, we show that partisanship has remained relatively at since Bartels’s analysis ended in 1996, with a spike during the 2012 election. In the fully specified model, we show that the impact of partisanship on presidential vote choice is higher now than at any point since 1972, although the change in importance of partisanship since 1984 is negligible. This is driven largely by including political ideology in the vote choice model. We conclude that partisanship remains the most important driver of vote choice in presidential elections, even if its power has been slightly overstated in the past.

Working Papers

Langehennig, Stefani R., E. Scott Adler, and Ryan W. Bell. “Understanding Congress Through the United States Code.” In preparation.

The United States Code provides a unique opportunity to gauge a number of different Created_by_Congress[1]aspects of congressional lawmaking activity through its annual updates of individual provisions of laws. In this paper, we discuss the U.S. Code as an expansive dataset for understanding congressional activities, performances, and priorities. We use Python to extract and parse sections of the U.S. Code spanning 1994 through 2016 from the Office of Law Revision Counsel’s (OLRC) XHTML data. Effectively, we have all provisions enacted into law and can track their changes over time and across policy areas. We then provide initial trends in the data that explain the breadth of lawmaking in various forms, as well as introduce new metrics – reauthorizations and “Institutional Advantage” – that capture legislative performance. In using this new dataset, we can more rigorously analyze Congress’s governing capacity over time and issue areas.

Adler, E. Scott, Stefani R. Langehennig, and Joseph Zamadics. “Institutional Advantage and Policy Influence in Congress.” In preparation.compapcount

We have long understood that high reelection rates by incumbent members of Congress are in large respect a manifestation of advantages they inherently have as sitting lawmakers on Capitol Hill (e.g., unpaid media for policy work, access to Capitol Hill resources, franked mail, etc.).  In a similar vein, certain representatives possess inherent positions of advantage when it comes to lawmaking and policy influence.  Leaders of congressional committees — both chairs and subcommittee chairs — inhabit elevated positions of responsibility and resource superiority for work within their legislative jurisdictions, and the amount to which they influence overall policy varies by committee.  We measure the degree of institutional advantage all members of Congress possess, and test how this advantage explains individual-level policy output. Ultimately, we find that institutional advantage for specific positions explains much policy influence, leaving little to be explained by the inherent abilities of individual lawmakers.

Research Positions