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Political Participation and Government Responsiveness: The Behavior of California Superior Courts

James H. Kuklinski and John E. Stanga
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 73, No. 4 (Dec., 1979), pp. 1090-1099
DOI: 10.2307/1953991
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1953991
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Political Participation and Government Responsiveness: The Behavior of California Superior Courts
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Abstract

Students of democratic politics have long been concerned with the role of political participation in linking government and the people it serves. Whereas participation is generally defined in terms of voting, this article defines participation as the communication of citizen preferences to public officeholders. We show that aggregate sentencing decisions of California superior courts changed to reflect more closely prevailing public opinion after a large percentage of the populace expressed their preferences on a marijuana issue. The fact that members of California superior courts are seemingly immune from any effective electoral sanction serves both to underline the importance of this form of participation to a responsive system of government and to caution against conceiving of the participation-responsiveness relationship only in terms of punitive electoral devices.

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