Constituency, Party, and Representation in Congress

Benjamin I. Page, Robert Y. Shapiro, Paul W. Gronke, Robert M. Rosenberg
1984 Public Opinion Quarterly  
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more » ... cess to The Public Opinion Quarterly. , J. S. Mill, and others have expressed varying views on how a legislator ought to represent his constituency. Theorists have also offered different ideas about how legislators actually behave. Some, including Downsian theorists working with an "economic theory of democracy," expect representatives to act exactly in accord with the policy preferences of their constituents (first section of Downs, 1957). Others argue that legislators are largely free of popular control and are influenced instead by interest groups' wishes, party loyalties, peer pressures, or their own judgments. The pioneering Miller and Stokes study of 1958 made possible for the first time a systematic empirical examination of linkages between sampled public opinion and roll call voting in Congress (Miller and Stokes, Abstract Using congressional districts as primary sampling units, the 1978 National Election Survey provides improved (though still imperfect) measures of district opinion. Together with Census data on district demography, roll call voting scales, and information on congressmen's party and personal characteristics, they permit a new examination of representation in Congress. Using these data we found a high degree of representation of district opinion on social welfare and (surprisingly) on women's issues, nearly as much on racial issues, and much less on law and order or on abortion. District demography and congressmen's party add substantially to the explanation of roll call votes. There is not, however, much "responsible party" representation in Congress. Future representation studies must face questions about the complex interplay among these factors, including reciprocal influences. Benjamin I.
doi:10.1086/268880 fatcat:daxnypxa4jg4ng5g26t3i27hqm