We examine an increasingly common political tactic: the self-binding pledge whereby lawmakers assure a constituency, social movement, or interest group that they will take a particular position on an upcoming vote or policy issue. An empirical analysis of novel data on the 2011 debt-limit crisis shows that pre-commitment by legislators to the Tea Party's "Cut, Cap, and Balance Pledge" was the joint product of grassroots pressure and ideological sympathy. Highly conser-vative early pledgers opposed fiscal compromise that fell short of the Tea Party's position, while a number of less conservative later signers reneged by voting for the Budget Control Act that resolved the debt-limit crisis. The case of the pledge sug-gests that social movements are well positioned to collaborate with true believing insiders to promote policy change but have difficulty persuading fence sitters to take their side.

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