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Public preferences for parliamentary representation in the UK: an overlooked link?

Carman, C.J. (2006) Public preferences for parliamentary representation in the UK: an overlooked link? Political Studies, 54 (1). pp. 103-122. ISSN 0032-3217

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Abstract

Representation, both as a normative concept and a political process, has generated a rich literature across several national contexts. To develop our understanding of representational systems, scholars tend to assess the degree of policy congruence between parliamentarians and constituents as well as the role orientations adopted by elected parliamentarians and legislators. This paper contends that in order to have a complete understanding of representational systems, we must consider not only the representational roles adopted by parliamentarians, but also the publics' preferences regarding parliamentary representation. Specifically, I posit that individuals have attitudes about the type and degree of relationship that they believe should exist between elected parliamentarians, parties and constituents. Using data from a 2003 survey of the British public, I test the related hypotheses that individuals have meaningful and predictable preferences for the representational relationship they share with their members of parliament (MPs) and that these representational preferences in turn influence how individuals evaluate MPs. Finding support for both hypotheses, I argue that developing an understanding of normative public preferences for political representation is an important and overlooked component in advancing models of public support of both elected officials and governing institutions.