American Indian Representation and State Policy

Joshua Johnson, Richard Witmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Despite provisions in the United States Constitution and in the Constitutions of the American States guaranteeing equal access for non-majority populations to vote, seek office, and lobby government officials, a thorough understanding of how non-majority group interests are represented in public policy proposals remains underdeveloped. For example, significant challenges to policy representation remain for racial and ethnic minorities, women, and LGB populations in Congress and these challenges may be even more pronounced in the American States. Moreover, understanding what facilitates the representation of non-majority interests is central to understanding democracy. We propose to add to our understanding of how group interests are represented by conceptualising representation as the policy responsiveness of elected officials. Specifically, we measure policy responsiveness as the amount of American Indian substantive and symbolic legislation proposed and passed in state legislatures. Our findings suggest that there are more substantive American Indian pieces of legislation proposed and passed in states with larger American Indian populations, have legislative committees and executive offices in place to address Native issues, and where American Indians have contributed more to state legislative candidates. Conversely, symbolic representation of Native issues via proposed and passed legislation is greater in states with larger American Indian populations only, and appears unaffected by tribal-state relations or state institutional arrangement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-193
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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