Explaining Variation in Policy Responsiveness in the U.S. House, 1981-2000
44 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
Although numerous scholars have explored the linkage between constituency policy preferences and the roll‐call behavior of legislators, little effort has been devoted to understanding variation in policy responsiveness. In this paper we posit a comprehensive theory of the effects of member and district characteristics on the linkage between constituency opinion and legislative policy responsiveness. We focus primarily on the effects of district diversity, which represents the degree to which legislative constituencies send clear signals to their representatives about their policy expectations. Using data on the U.S. House for the years 1981 to 2000, we find that legislator responsiveness is significantly stronger for House members representing homogenous districts and whose constituents are politically sophisticated and engaged. Policy responsiveness is also ameliorated by seniority and chamber activities — more senior House members and those who sponsor more legislation are less responsive to their constituents. Our findings have important implications for how we perceive the representative‐constituency relationship.
Keywords: policy responsiveness, district diversity, constituency influence
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