Monday, August 31, 2015

Political Risks and Rewards for Legislators Associated with Assisted Suicide.

Dear Honorable Members of the California Assembly,

Dr Jacqueline Harvey
y name is Dr. Jacqueline Harvey and I write today to share new and vital evidence from my latest study, "Assisted Suicide: Political Risks and Rewards for Legislators Associated with Votes to Legalize vs. Maintain the Status Quo" that will help inform your vote on ABX2-15. This paper was submitted for the 2016 Western Political Science Association in San Diego and is the first analysis of the political risks and rewards for lawmakers attributed to their vote for or against assisted suicide. It examines the fate of lawmakers in Vermont who passed the first and only assisted suicide bill Act 39 in 2013. By contrasting each lawmakers vote on Act 39 with 2014 election results as well as the subsequent voting records on assisted suicide for each office, the study indicates that lawmakers who voted to monumentally change the status quo on an issue as contentious as assisted suicide faced confirmed risks with no rewards. 

Consider the following findings:
  • There was a statistically significant higher incidence of losing re-election attributed to a pro-assisted suicide vote (r=.176) but no risk/losses attributed to an anti-assisted vote. 
  • Lawmakers who voted in favor of assisted suicide lost their re-election campaigns more than twice as often as those who chose to maintain the status quo, seven vs. three (n=10) 
  • Voting against assisted suicide was not a factor that contributed to any of the 3 losses. 
  • Voting in favor of assisted suicide was a factor in six out of seven failed campaigns, and was only ruled out in one case. 
  • In every case where assisted suicide was a variable in re-election, 100% of those who lost re-election were in favor of assisted suicide. 
  • In all six cases where assisted suicide was a factor, 100% of those who lost re-election were succeeded by legislators who voted to repeal Act 39. 
  • Democrats comprised 100% of losses where assisted suicide was a factor and all were replaced by Republicans. 
  • Neither party suffered a single loss due to a vote against Act 39, a total of 30 Democrats and 34 Republicans who voted against Act 39 and none of those who sought re-election lost to a pro-assisted suicide challenger. 
  • Controlling for party-affiliation confirmed that there was no political benefit for voting in favor or opposed to Act 39. In the four out of ten cases where the candidates' position on assisted suicide was ruled out as a contributing factor in their loss, the two instances that include one vote in favor and one opposed both, which indicate voters did not choose a lawmaker over the challenger as a reward for their previous vote on assisted suicide. 
  • The author of Act 39 was not rewarded with re-election for passing the first assisted suicide bill but unseated after six years in office by a candidate who voted to repeal Act 39. 
The implications of these findings for you in regard to ABX2-15 is that the perceived support that passed Act 39 did not endure to the ballot box. Voters certainly do not reward their elected officials for supporting assisted suicide and potentially vote against them in retribution. Please consider this evidence when choosing if this issue, which already lacks public support, is worth the risks that you could face by offering your support.

Jacqueline C. Harvey, Ph.D.
Political Science, Department of Social Science

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