The Culture Wars and the Agenda of the U.S. Congress
Horowitz, Juliana Menasce
Herrnson, Paul S.
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The scholarly literature on controversial cultural issues like abortion, gay rights, and school prayer thus far has focused in large part on the link between public opinion and the adoption of what political scientists have termed "morality policy." While this literature has made significant contributions towards the understanding of the politics of the culture wars, the starting point for most studies of morality policy is a decision between two alternatives--to adopt or to reject a proposed policy or to cast a "yes" or "no" vote on a bill--that are already on the table. Yet, an important part of the puzzle--how cultural issues become part of the legislative agenda in the first place--has been largely ignored in the morality policy literature. This dissertation advances the literature by addressing the rise of cultural issues on the congressional agenda. More specifically, I examine the factors that make some members more likely than others to introduce bills on cultural issues, the circumstances under which committees are most likely to hold hearings on such issues, and congressional leaders' decision to schedule floor votes on these controversial issues. Using rare events logistic regression, negative binomial regression, and standard logistic regression analysis, I show that individual members of Congress and the majority party leadership, especially under Republican control, are motivated, in part, by electoral considerations, including the timing of elections, when they put cultural issues on the agenda of the U.S. Congress.