“Hearing from All Sides” How Legislative Testimony Influences State Level Policy-Makers in the United States

Document Type : Original Article


1 Center for Public Health Systems Science, Brown School, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

2 Prevention Research Center, Brown School, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

3 Division of Public Health Sciences and Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA


This paper investigates whether state legislators find testimony influential, to what extent testimony influences policy-makers’ decisions, and defines the features of testimony important in affecting policy-makers’ decisions.
We used a mixed method approach to analyze responses from 862 state-level legislators in the United States (U.S.). Data were collected via a phone survey from January-October, 2012. Qualitative data were analyzed using a general inductive approach and codes were designed to capture the most prevalent themes. Descriptive statistics and cross tabulations were also completed on thematic and demographic data to identify additional themes.
Results: Most legislators, regardless of political party and other common demographics, find testimony influential, albeit with various definitions of influence. While legislators reported that testimony influenced their awareness or encouraged them to take action like conducting additional research, only 6% reported that testimony changes their vote. Among those legislators who found testimony influential, characteristics of the presenter (e.g., credibility, knowledge of the subject) were the most important aspects of testimony. Legislators also noted several characteristics of testimony content as important, including use of credible, unbiased information and data.
Findings from this study can be used by health advocates, researchers, and individuals to fine tune the delivery of materials and messages to influence policy-makers during legislative testimony. Increasing the likelihood that information from scholars will be used by policy-makers may lead to the adoption of more health policies that are informed by scientific and practice-based evidence.


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