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In the article Representation in Congress: Constituents and RollCalls in the 106th House, Clinton conducts a study based on 100,814 respondents to expand existing scope of literature regarding subconstituency preferences. Clinton finds out that there are differences in voting…
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Summary In the article Representation in Congress: Constituents and RollCalls in the 106th House, Clinton conductsa study based on 100,814 respondents to expand existing scope of literature regarding subconstituency preferences. Clinton finds out that there are differences in voting behavior of Democrats and Republicans; however, the results of the study do not reveal the reasons why roll call behavior differs. Republicans tend to be more responsive to their party while Democrats tend to be less centered on ideology and responsive to needs and expectations of non-Democrats.
The study is conducted in a single Congress; it is the reason why Clinton does not apply it to all states. The results may differ depending on the party of the representative and geographic factor. In the opposition of party constituency and geographic constituency, conservative wings tend to care more about party constituency while progressive forces pay more attention to local preferences. Rivalry between Republicans and Democrats results in the fact that policies of the House become more radical than people want them to be. Voters who belong to different parties are expected to have opposite points of view on the same issue. It results in radical solutions offered by both of them.
Even though it seems that such radicalism negatively influences representative function of the House, all policies need to be approved by the Senate and the President. This approach mediates differences in party-correlated behavior. The limitations of this study give a clue for further research where the true causes of differences of party correlated behavior are identified and studies.
Summary #2
The study by Butler and Nickerson examines how legislators tend to react when they are informed about public opinion. Since their main function is to represent people, they need to act in line with what people expect from them. At the same time, many legislators remain uninformed and their decisions do not represent the interests of their voters.
Butler and Nickerson conducted a survey of New Mexicans regarding 2008 summer session and shared their findings with a randomly-selected half of legislators. Those legislators who were informed about the results of the survey, were more likely to vote in support of public opinion. At the same time, legislators who were in the control group were less likely to guess what people expected from them.
This study supports the idea that legislators want to act in line with public opinion; however, the authors warn that the information about public opinion has to come from relevant sources. In their case, they conducted a poll and informed legislators about the result in letters when they already know about constituent opinions in their district. The results of the poll were persuasive enough for the legislators to influence their voting behavior. As a result, researchers conclude that legislators are willing to support people and meet their expectation. Public opinion is an effective tool of persuasion but it has to be retrieved using objective methods in order to prevent any manipulations. Butler and Nickerson underline ethical issues they faced in their study and suggest that it can be used as a guideline for future researchers.
Works Cited
Clinton, Joshua D. "Representation in Congress: constituents and roll calls in the 106th House." Journal of Politics 68.2 (2006): 397-409.
Butler, Daniel M., and David W. Nickerson. "Can learning constituency opinion affect how legislators vote? Results from a field experiment." Quarterly Journal of Political Science 6.1 (2011): 55-83. Read More
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