Elected legislators must balance multiple priorities in their political decision-making, the highest of which is to ensure re-election. This tendency can be seen in the unsuccessful efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Regardless of their views on health care, legislators on both sides were mindful of the political costs of breaking with the party line. Losing the goodwill of party leaders and activists could severely damage a re-election campaign.
A correlation has been found between House Republicans’ campaign contributions from business associations and their involvement in efforts to repeal parts of ACA, suggesting another significant consideration (Béland et al., 2019). The partisanship-colored voter opinions have been an even more influential factor. The support of Republican legislators for the repeal efforts has been strongly correlated with their districts’ presidential votes, which are now regarded as a reliable indicator of partisanship (Bussing et al., 2020).
Thus the fear of losing critical electoral support due to backing legislative efforts likely to alienate their constituents has kept some legislators from supporting the repeal. Without this factor, most legislators had no rational cause to deviate from the party position.
The strong influence of voter preferences on legislator decision-making has made them a critical consideration for legislative leaders. Since legislators do not have exact knowledge of their constituents’ opinions on major issues, they are forced to guess their preferences based on irregular polling and local partisanship strength (Bussing et al., 2020).
Nevertheless, those perceived voter opinions now play a significant part in determining the parties’ national strategies. Conservative activism and voter partisanship have created an incentive for Republicans to try to repeal the ACA. However, the law appears to have become increasingly popular among other parts of the electorate due to a combination of Democratic partisanship and the fear of losing its benefits (Béland et al., 2019).
As a result, attempts to repeal the ACA have become politically counterproductive, potentially undermining party unity by causing Republicans in marginal districts to side against the party. This consideration may account for the drop in legislative challenges to the ACA. Thus, legislative leaders are forced to observe a careful balance between accommodating moderate and extreme voter opinions in planning national policy proposals.
Béland, D., Rocco, P., & Waddan, A. (2019). Policy feedback and the politics of the Affordable Care Act. Policy Studies Journal, 47(2), 395-422. Web.
Bussing, A., Roberts, J. M., & Treul, S. A. (2020). The electoral consequences of roll call voting: Health care and the 2018 election. Political Behavior. Web.