All Together Now: Putting Congress, State Legislatures, and Individuals in a Common Ideological Space to Assess Representation at the Macro and Micro Levels
University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies
April 25, 2011
Two problems hinder the ability of scholars to assess the quality of representation of state-level public opinion by elected representatives. First, the main tool measuring ideology in public opinion has historically been self-reported, but this is now well known to be severely plagued by measurement error. Second, and far more binding, we lack a common scale on which to place both constituents and representatives. While the literature has addressed a number of methods estimating a common space for politicians' ideal points across political institutions, little work exists that incorporates citizens into this space. The unified methodology in this paper solves both problems in order to assess representation of constituents by their congressional delegations and state legislatures. Bridging is accomplished using policy preference questions from a state and congressional candidate survey administered since the early 1990s. I ask those questions in my own 2008 survey of over 4,200 citizen respondents, representative at the state and national levels. Thus, citizens, state legislators, and members of Congress can be located on the same ideological scale. Since small states still have too few respondents to be useful, I employ multilevel regression with poststratification to model state-level public ideology and obtain estimates for all 50 states. I find that both congressional delegations and state legislators - both strikingly polarized - systematically under-represent large portions of their constituents. Finally, I employ the new common space scores in a new test of the spatial voting (proximity) model for congressional elections, and find that my measures of ideology compare favorably to alternatives.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 45
Keywords: ideology, ideal points, common space, state legislatures, Congress, representation, MRP, multilevel modeling, state-level opinion, surveyworking papers series
Date posted: October 25, 2010 ; Last revised: July 7, 2011
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