Discussion paper

DP12801 The Tyranny of the Single Minded: Guns, Environment, and Abortion

We study how electoral incentives affect policy choices on secondary issues, which only minorities of voters care intensely about. We develop a model in which office and policy motivated politicians vote in favor or against regulations on these issues. We derive conditions under which politicians flip flop, voting according to their policy preferences at the beginning of their terms, but in line with the preferences of single-issue minorities as they approach re-election. To assess the evidence, we study U.S. senators' votes on gun control, environment, and reproductive rights. In line with the model's predictions, we find that i) election proximity has a pro-gun effect on Democratic senators and a pro-environment effect on Republican senators; these effects arise for senators who ii) are not retiring, iii) do not hold safe seats, and iv) represent states where the single-issue minority is of intermediate size. Also in line with our theory, election proximity does not affect votes on reproductive rights, due to the presence of single-issue minorities on both sides.


Conconi, P, L Bouton, F Pino and (eds) (2018), “DP12801 The Tyranny of the Single Minded: Guns, Environment, and Abortion”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 12801. https://cepr.org/publications/dp12801