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Assessing preferences for political representation in the US

Carman, Christopher J. (2007) Assessing preferences for political representation in the US. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 17 (1). pp. 1-19. ISSN 1745-7289

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Abstract

While much of the extant research on political representation focuses on congruence issues and elite perceptions of their representational roles, little has been done to examine how members of the general public think about representational relationship. Often, constituents are assumed to be passive actors in the representational process. This paper advances the argument that individuals have preferences over how tightly bound elected representatives should be to constituent policy preferences and that these preferences are contextual, varying by the degree to which constituents perceive that their representative shares characteristics similar to those of the individual. Two data sources are used to verify this argument: (1) the 1978 ANES and (2) data collected for Congress' Obey Commission, 1976-1977. These data provide evidence that public representational preferences have a systematic component. Most significantly, the study finds that members of minority groups have contextually derived preferences for political representation