The Morality of Representation: Constituent Moral Foundations and Position-Taking in Congress

36 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2012

See all articles by Bradley Jones

Bradley Jones

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Date Written: February 27, 2012


The political geography of the United States has been the subject of a great deal of scholarly and popular writing. This work has been important in understanding variation in state governments, election returns, social indicators, and the quality of representation by elected officials. However, studies in this tradition generally have generally been limited in terms of the units of analysis (typically focusing on states or regions due to data limitations). Studies that focus on smaller geographic units are typically forced to rely on imperfect proxies of the indicators they would like to study. In this paper, I construct congressional-district level measurements of constituent values (moral foundations) directly from a large database of survey responses. Moral foundations theory represents a new synthesis of values research, and it offers a way to explain the origins of political differences across individuals. I find that variation in the moral foundations across the country explains a significant amount of variance in congressional behavior. I specifically focus on position-taking and bill sponsorship and cosponsorship. In addition to the substantive contribution of this paper, I demonstrate how Bayesian hierarchical modeling can be used to correct for the biases in self-selected internet surveys.

Keywords: MRP, moral foundations, political geography, convenience sampling

Suggested Citation

Jones, Bradley, The Morality of Representation: Constituent Moral Foundations and Position-Taking in Congress (February 27, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Bradley Jones (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

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