Online Responsiveness: Legislative Websites and the Dimensions of Political Representation

60 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014

See all articles by Jeffrey J. Harden

Jeffrey J. Harden

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Scholars of American politics typically conceptualize representation narrowly as mass-elite policy congruence, with many studies identifying factors that hinder the relationship. These findings are at odds with the high re-election rates often observed in American legislatures. I present an explanation for this puzzle by showing that policy is only one of several dimensions through which legislators provide representation, and thus earn support. I unify policy, service, allocation, and descriptive representation in a single theoretical model of legislators’ priorities, then test it with data coded from the content of 510 state legislators’ websites. I posit that, given the constraints of resources and costs, legislators systematically emphasize some dimensions over others to further the goal of re-election. Results provide support; factors that alter resources, costs, and benefits — legislative institutions, district demand, and individual traits — structure legislators’ strategic representational priorities. I conclude by discussing the implications of these results for assessments of inequality in American political representation.

Keywords: Representation, Policy congruence, Constituent service, Allocation, Descriptive representation, State legislators, Representational inequality

Suggested Citation

Harden, Jeffrey J., Online Responsiveness: Legislative Websites and the Dimensions of Political Representation (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2107768

Jeffrey J. Harden (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Political Science ( email )

333 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0333
United States

HOME PAGE: http://spot.colorado.edu/~jeha9919/

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