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Journal of Empirical Legal Studies

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federalism, policy preferences, state powers, physician-assisted suicide


Health Law and Policy | Law | State and Local Government Law


The ongoing debate over the political safeguards of federalism has essentially ignored the role that citizens might play in restraining federal power. Scholars have assumed that citizens care only about policy outcomes and will invariably support congressional legislation that satisfies their substantive policy preferences, no matter the cost to state powers. Scholars thus typically turn to institutions-the courts or institutional features of the political process-to cabin congressional authority. We argue that ignoring citizens is a mistake. We propose a new theory of the political safeguards of federalism in which citizens help to safeguard state authority. We also test our theory using evidence from a nationally representative survey experiment that focuses on the timely issue of physician-assisted suicide. We find that citizens are not single-mindedly interested in policy outcomes; trust in state govern- ments and federalism beliefs, on the urging of political elites, reduce their willingness to support a federal ban on physician-assisted suicide.



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