Position-Taking as Democratic Representation
Tom S. Clark
Emory University - Department of Political Science
June 12, 2009
A fundamental question in the study of American government concerns the extent to which our democracy is representative. Students have explored whether governmental decision-makers respond to the preferences of their constituents. Most studies have asked whether the content of laws that are enacted reﬂects public preferences. I argue that beyond policy responsiveness, representation takes place through position-taking by elected representatives. Position-taking is a form of public posturing that can convey information about constituent opinion to other decision-makers. I outline a simple formal logic for legislative position-taking. I then show that a correlation between public opinion and bill sponsorship, net of a legislator’s preferences, implies that less well-informed elites can learn about public opinion by observing position-taking. Original evidence on state-level opinion and bill sponsorship is used to demonstrate the eﬀect of public opinion on position-taking. The evidence indicates that public opinion is given voice in governmental decision-making and that elites who want to learn about public opinion can do so by observing symbolic position-taking by members of the House.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: representation, position-taking, public opinion, legislative politicsworking papers series
Date posted: June 13, 2009
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo3 in 0.344 seconds