The Elusive Quest for Convergence
40 Pages Posted: 9 May 2013 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2016
Does American political representation work as predicted by theory? On average, political candidates diverge considerably in their ideological positioning, but do they diverge less on issues of particular salience to their local constituents? We combine data on congressional roll call votes, electoral outcomes, district demographics, and substantive information about bills to search for convergence in the places we would most expect to find it. Despite the predictions of prominent models, legislators diverge just as much even when their constituents have strong interests in a particular policy area. These results provide new insights into policymaking and political representation, and they help distinguish between different theoretical explanations for why candidate positions diverge.
Keywords: political representation, issue representation, issue salience, Congress, roll call voting
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