Multidimensional Responsiveness: The Determinants of Legislators’ Representational Priorities
48 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 22 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
Scholars of American politics typically conceptualize representation as mass-elite policy congruence, and in doing so have found several factors that hinder that relationship. These findings are at odds with the fact that American legislators often gain enough support to win re-election. I present an explanation for this puzzle by showing that legislators strategically provide four unique dimensions of representation to their constituents: policy, service, allocation, and descriptive. I unify these dimensions in a single theoretical model of legislators’ priorities, then test it with data from survey experiments administered to 1,175 state legislators. I posit that legislators systematically emphasize some dimensions over others to further the goal of reelection. Given the constraints of resources and costs, legislators must choose their representational focus based on perceived electoral benefits. I find that institutional, district, and individual-level traits alter these resources, costs, and benefits, thereby driving legislators’ strategic representational behavior.
Keywords: Representation, Policy congruence, Constituent service, Allocation, Descriptive representation
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