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February 9, 2005. Who’s here? JFK in Nashville in 1963 Representation Readings Congress as an institution for Representation Mayhew Fenno Poole/Rosenthal. What is Representation?. District-Based Conception. Yes. No. Policy/Issue. Collective. High. Policy Content.

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february 9 2005
February 9, 2005
  • Who’s here?
  • JFK in Nashville in 1963
  • Representation Readings
  • Congress as an institution for Representation
    • Mayhew
    • Fenno
    • Poole/Rosenthal
conceptions of representation

District-Based Conception






Policy Content




Conceptions of Representation
policy issues
  • Style
    • Delegate: follow the mandate of constituents
    • Trustee: exercise independent judgment
    • “Politico”: switches roles or may engage be a delegate and trustee at same time
  • Focus
    • The constituency that is being represented
policy issue studies
Policy/Issue Studies
  • Wahlke et al (1952): divide members into trustee, delegate, and “politico”
  • Miller & Stokes (1958): attempt to link constituent opinions to legislator’s behavior
    • Social Welfare: Vote by Party
    • Civil Rights: Delegate Role
    • Foreign Affairs: Deference to Executive
  • Fenno (1977): “home style”; members convince constituents that they represent them regardless of the extent of agreement
policy issue studies continued
Policy/Issue Studies Continued
  • Browne (1995): constituents influence vote on agricultural legislation
  • Hall (1987, 1996): district influences legislator membership on committees
concentric constituencies
Concentric Constituencies
  • Geographic
  • Reelection
  • Primary
  • Personal
geographical constituency
Geographical Constituency
  • “The District”
    • Physical: specified by boundaries
    • Internal Demographic and Political Variables: socioeconomic status, ethnicity, ideology, partisanship, religion, diversity, etc.
      • Heterogeneity v. Homogeneity: variable that seems to determine members’ perceptions of their districts
reelection constituency
Reelection Constituency
  • “The Supporters”
    • Who she thinks will vote for her
    • Reference points in determining reelection constituency
      • Cross-Sectional
      • Longitudinal
    • Partisans, Cross-Party, Least-Likely
    • “Last Time” v. “This Time”
    • Challenger has greatest potential for altering the size and composition of reelection constituency
    • Issues can alter reelection constituency
primary constituency
Primary Constituency
  • “The Strongest Supporters”
    • Weak supporters: follow routines (straight party) or are temporary (waiting for alternative)
    • Strong supporters: more political activity, will not support any challenger
    • Difficult to delineate primary constituency in some cases, members who recently emerged from a primary election can determine their primary constituency
personal constituency
Personal Constituency
  • “The Intimates”
    • Few individuals: closest advisors and confidants, sometimes a spouse (“Kitchen Cabinet”)
    • Usually the people who have been by an official since their first race
    • Thought of as “friends”
proximate goal
Proximate Goal
  • Reelection
    • Universal
    • Cannot achieve other goals if member is not reelected
    • “All members of Congress have a primary interest in getting re-elected. Some members have no other interest.”
activities useful for reelection
Activities Useful for Reelection
  • Advertising
    • visiting constituency, non-political speeches to home audiences, letters of condolence and congratulation, newsletters, opinion editorials
    • Franking Privilege
activities useful for reelection16
Activities Useful for Reelection
  • Credit Claiming: generating belief that the legislator is personally responsible for a government change
    • Particularized Benefits
      • Given to specific individual or group that allows the single legislator to be recognized
      • Done in an ad hoc fashion
activities useful for reelection17
Activities Useful for Reelection
  • Position-taking: “public enunciation of a judgmental statement on anything likely to be of interest to political actors”
    • roll call vote, floor addresses, speeches, television appearances, letters, press releases, interviews, etc.
institution meets electoral needs
Institution Meets Electoral Needs
  • Benefits Associated with the Office
    • Staff, casework capabilities, franking privilege
    • Seniority
  • Committee Structure
    • Platform for position-taking, particularized benefits, allows division of labor among members
  • Parties
    • Majority party could cut off particularized benefits from minority party, but this has not happened
basic goals of a legislator
Basic Goals of a Legislator

1. Reelection

2. Influence within the House

3. Good Public Policy

X. (career beyond house, private gain)

  • Committee membership reflects the goal of a legislators
appropriations ways means
Appropriations, Ways & Means
  • “Power,” “Prestige,” “Importance”
  • Reflects desire to have influence within the House
interior post office
Interior, Post Office
  • “District Interests,” “Projects,” “Political Help”
  • Reflects goal of reelection by helping constituents
education labor foreign affairs
Education, Labor, Foreign Affairs
  • “Interesting,” “Exciting,” “Controversial,” “Important”
  • Reflects goal of making good public policy
congress a political economic history of roll call voting keith t poole howard rosenthal et al



Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call VotingKeith T. Poole, Howard Rosenthal et al

motivation of legislator
Motivation of Legislator
  • Ideology
    • Liberal to Conservative Spectrum
    • Constraint Hypothesis: issues tend to be mapped onto a fixed ordering or placement of legislators
    • Voting tends to be highly consistent over a member’s time in office.
    • History: http://www.voteview.com/h461051.htm
service allocational
  • Obtaining projects that help the district (“pork) or interceding in the bureacracy (“cutting through red tape)
  • Motives
    • Sense of duty
    • Grateful constituents = Reelection
      • Studies on impact of pork for reelection mixed
  • Issues: necessary for constituents to have help?, votes for district at expense of nation?
symbolic descriptive
  • Legislator as “symbol” that represents public
  • Representation may extend beyond geographic boundaries of the district
    • Individual Examples: female legislator as advocate for women nationally, minority legislator as advocate for minorities nationally
    • Group Example: legislative caucuses
  • Represent constituents with a more collective view
    • political parties
    • Congress as representative of the nation as a whole
  • May lead to conflict with district constituents
the great divide
The Great Divide
  • Trustee Representation (Burkean)
  • Delegate Representation

The Constitutional Context

      • Limited Government
      • Separation of Powers
      • Checks and Balances
      • Federalism

Functions of Rules and Procedures

• Stability (and predictability)

• Legitimacy

• Division of Labor

• Protection of Minority Rights

• Conflict Resolution

• Distribution of Power


Rules and Policy Making in Congress

• Procedure and Policy

Procedures affect outcomes.

Procedural moves express policy decisions.

The nature of policy determines the use of procedure.

Procedural expertise helps members impact policy.

• Conventional versus Unconventional Lawmaking

“I’m just a bill…”

• Precedents and Folkways


“…the accumulated past decisions on matters of procedure…”


“…unwritten norms of behavior that members are expected to observe.”


Congressional Decision Making

•Decentralized Power Structure

Political and structural realities

More than 200 committees and subcommittees

Parties can provide cohesion.

• Multiple Decision Points

• Bargaining and Coalition Building



Nonlegislative Favors

• The Congressional Cycle

Two-Year Deadline


House versus Senate

• The Big Three

Size of Body

Size of District

Length of Term

• Complexity of Rules


House versus Senate continued

• Policy Incubation

• Specialists versus Generalists

• Distribution of Power

More even in Senate

• Similarities

Equal power

Lawmaking, oversight and representation

Heavy workloads

Decentralized committee and party structures

Dependence on staff


Pressures on Members

• President & Executive Branch

• The Fourth Estate

• Constituent Pressures

• Washington Lobbyists

  • Adrian Rodriguez & Alex Theodoridis
  • Presentation based on: Weisberg, Herbert F., Eric S. Heberlig and Lisa M. Campoli, Classics in Congressional Politics “What is Representation?”, Weisberg et al eds. (Glenview: Longman 1999) pp. 68-82.
  • Image on Cover from: The Architect of the Capitol http://www.aoc.gov/cc/capitol/c_wf_1.cfm

Concepts of Representation slide based on: Table 5.1 in Weisberg et al, p. 74.

  • Presentation based on: Fenno, Jr., Richard F., Home Style: House Members in their Districts (Glenview: Little, Brown & Company 1978), “Perceptions of the Constituency”, pp. 1-30.
  • Image on Cover from: US Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/oaintrnt/images/water_home.jpg