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Constituency Representation in Congress
The View from Capitol Hill

$113.00 (C)

  • Date Published: September 2010
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521765404

$ 113.00 (C)

Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
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About the Authors
  • Congressional representation requires that legislators be aware of the interests of constituents in their districts and behave in ways that reflect the wishes of their constituents. But of the many constituents in their districts, who do legislators in Washington actually see, and who goes unseen? Moreover, how do these perceptions of constituents shape legislative behavior? This book answers these fundamental questions by developing a theory of legislative perception that leverages insights from cognitive psychology. Legislators are shown to see only a few constituents in their district on a given policy, namely those who donate to their campaigns and contact the legislative office, and fail to see many other relevant constituents. Legislators are also subsequently more likely to act on behalf of the constituents they see, while important constituents not seen by legislators are rarely represented in the policymaking process. Overall, legislators’ views of constituents are limited and flawed, and even well-meaning legislators cannot represent their constituents if they do not accurately see who is in their district.

    • The first book to examine empirically the important question of which constituents legislators see when they look at their district, and ties cognitive psychology-based theories to the perceptions and subsequent behavior of congressional elites
    • This research demonstrates that legislative elites are not perfectly 'rational' actors, but rather are subject to cognitive constraints and therefore are likely to rely on mental shortcuts, or heuristics
    • Examines legislative perceptions of their constituents and legislative behavior in the areas of health policy and natural resources policy (i.e. energy and environment)
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Miler directs needed attention to a subject that has been neglected in recent scholarship on representation: the role of legislators’ perceptions of their districts. Her skillful and innovative analysis demonstrates that systematic biases in members’ perceptions of their constituencies affect the policy-making process in ways that amplify resource disparities among groups of constituents. This sophisticated book provides an important perspective on the sources of inequalities in representation; it is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of the representative process.”
    —Diana Evans, Trinity College

    “This engaging study offers important new insight into legislative representation and political inequality. Extensive elite interviews, along with careful attention to policy issues and data analysis, allow Miler to develop a highly realistic and satisfying account of representational relationships.”
    —Frances E. Lee, University of Maryland

    “Miler offers a fresh and important new perspective on the U.S. Congress. She demonstrates that members of Congress must rely on heuristics in assessing the demands arising from the multiple constituencies in their districts, and that these heuristics can lead to important biases in which interests are represented. By bringing cognitive psychology squarely into the study of Congress, Miler generates essential insights into the nature of constituent representation and congressional policy-making.”
    —Eric Schickler, University of California, Berkeley

    “When legislators look at their districts, what do they see? In this engaging and creative new book, Miler explains both why legislators perceive some subconstituencies but not others, and how these perceptions then affect the legislators’ actions. Miler's explanations, which use the cognitive limitations of legislators as a starting point, are important not only for their substantive conclusions, but also for the way in which she demonstrates how psychological explanations can be merged with rational choice explanations to provide a more nuanced portrait of legislative behavior.”
    —Charles Shipan, University of Michigan

    “In Constituency Representation in Congress: The View from Capitol Hill , Kristina C. Miler makes an impressive contribution to political science. Because of her decision to examine the thoroughness with which member offices perceive active sub-constituencies in any one of four policy campaigns, she contributes not only to our understanding of “policy representation” from Washington, but also to a growing literature on “congressional enterprises” and district level “political participation.”" -Christine DeGregorio, American University, Congress & the Presidency

    "Constituency Representation in Congress is a useful, thoughtful and important addition to the literature on congressional representation...It is certainly a "must read" for serious students of representation as wells as those concerned about patterns of inequality in the U.S. policy process." -Gerald C. Wright, Indiana University, American Review of Politics

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2010
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521765404
    • length: 224 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • contains: 13 b/w illus. 14 tables
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • Table of Contents

    1. The unanswered question of legislative perception
    2. A dyadic theory of subconstituency representation
    3. The psychology of representation
    4. Subconstituents relevant to health policy and natural resources policy
    5. Explaining legislative perceptions
    6. The effects of legislative perception on participation
    7. Reassembling the district as a whole
    8. Perception, reform, and representation in Congress.

  • Author

    Kristina C. Miler, University of Maryland, College Park
    Kristina Miler is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Her research has been published in the Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly and Political Psychology. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the Dirksen Congressional Center, among other sources.

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