Reformers claim district attorneys (DAs) contribute to mass incarceration by responding to "tough on crime" voters, yet there are no measures of the correspondence between DA and voter preferences. I use a series of criminal justice ballot propositions in California to explore the link between DAs and their constituencies. While voter preferences vary greatly across issues and geography, DAs almost always take the conservative position. They are on the same side as their voters only half the time, and more liberal electorates are only weakly associated with more liberal DAs. DAs are also substantially less representative than other elected officials taking positions on the same issues and facing similar electorates. These results suggest limits to representation among elected criminal justice officials, and among local elected officials in general.
Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 2, Issue 2 Special Issue - Local Political Economy
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.