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Mass Participation, Electoral Competitiveness, and Issue-Attitude Agreement Between Congressmen and their Constituents

  • Kim Quaile Hill and Patricia A. Hurley

In recent research Verba and Nie and Hansen have provided systematic evidence on the positive effects of mass participation on other aspects of the public policy process. Specifically, Verba and Nie demonstrated that for data on American communities, a curvilinear relationship exists between the level of mass political participation and the extent of elite-mass agreement on ‘policy agenda’ items. The effect of this relationship is such that the highest agreement, or ‘attitude concurrence’, is found in those communities with the highest levels of participation. Working with the same data, Hansen3 showed that the competitiveness of elections also influences concurrence independently and that there was an interaction effect of participation and competition on policy-agenda agreement. The interaction was such that attitude concurrence was highest in communities with especially high levels of both participation and competition.

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1 Verba, Sidney and Nie, Norman H., Participation in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

2 Hansen, Susan Blackall, ‘Participation, Political Structure, and Concurrence’, American Political Science Review, LXIX (1975), 1181–200.

3 Hansen, , ‘Participation, Political Structure, and Concurrence’, pp. 1193–4.

4 Verba, and Nie, , Participation in America, pp. 301–4.

5 Miller, Warren E. and Stokes, Donald E., ‘Constituency Influence in Congress’, American Political Science Review, LVII (1963), 4556.

6 Because metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan counties, rather than Congressional districts, were the original sampling units, the districts were weighted in the original analysis in order to make the weighted sample a representative one. A second result of this procedure, as discussed by Miller and Stokes (see fn. 5) is an increase in the reliability of the original averaged constituency-attitude scores.

7 These subsets were created by dividing the sample into four groups along the mean value for participation and a value of 45 per cent or more of the votes won by the losing congressional candidate.

* School of Professional Studies, University of Houston at Clear Lake City; and Department of Political Science, University of Houston.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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