The Elusive Quest for Convergence

40 Pages Posted: 9 May 2013 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016

See all articles by Anthony Fowler

Anthony Fowler

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Andrew Hall

Stanford University

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

Suggested Citation

Fowler, Anthony and Hall, Andrew, The Elusive Quest for Convergence (2016). Available at SSRN: or

Anthony Fowler (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Andrew Hall

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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