Policy Responsiveness to Shifting Majorities: US House Members Respond to Hard Times
30 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 5 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
In theory, students of democracy hold that voting is the hallmark of a responsive government. One measure of responsive government is the fit between citizens’ policy expectations and those of their agents, the elected officials. We examine fluctuations in federal awards and assistance to House districts over three election cycles (2002 through 2006) for their responsiveness to observable changes in members’ reelection constituencies. We anticipate that changes in the makeup of voters will alter the number and mix of federal outlays. In keeping with prior scholarship (Fenno 1977; Lee 2000; Wlezien 2004), we test for additional effects, both institutional and contextual. We use the Federal Assistance Awards Data System (FAADS) to capture shifts in spending of particular interest to Democrats (entitlements) and Republicans (contingent liability) (Bickers and Stein 1995). The findings advance our appreciation for the challenges that are inherent in representative governance.
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