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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Leaders or Caretakers: Examining the Impact of Ideological Diversity on California's Legislative Leaders


This paper examines the impact of Democrats' ideological diversity on the strength of legislative leadership in the California state legislature since 2001. To measure ideological diversity, I use Shor-McCarty NPAT scores and adjusted California Chamber of Commerce SCores to measure overall ideological diversity and ideologically relating to business interests, respectively. To measure legislative leaders' strength and influence, I use a formal powers index and a media analysis of The Sacramento Bee to measure formal and perceived power, respectively. I supplement this quantitative data with interviews of former legislators. I find evidence of a weak relationship between overall ideological diversity among Democrats and leaders' perceived strength, as well as evidence of a weak-to-moderate relationship between ideological diversity on business interests among Democrats and leaders' perceived strength. I also find evidence to suggest that longevity and legislative leadership styles factor into leaders' strength, and that leaders in recent years have emphasized procedural fairness, possibly in response to increased ideological diversity among Democrats. This research has implications not just for California politics, but for the study of state legislatures nationwide and potentially for the study of the U.S. Congress.

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