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

James H. Kuklinski, John E. Stanga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1090-1099
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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