Publication Date

April 2015

Advisor(s)

Logan Dancey

Major

Government

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis examines whether the relationship between members of Congress and their constituents has changed as increased partisanship and polarization have altered the American political environment. I investigate the link between district demographics, district ideology, and member ideology to determine the factors to which members are most responsive. Largely drawing on US Census data, DW-NOMINATE scores, and my own original data, I pay special attention to House Republican legislation related to nationally salient issues—the Affordable Care Act and executive action on immigration—under the Obama administration. I find that members’ own ideological leanings affect their decisions to sponsor and cosponsor, as do demographic factors, although neither factor is a consistent influence on behavior. The district’s strength of partisan preference, however, does not play a role. As a result, contemporary conceptions of member responsiveness to constituents should reflect this nuanced view of legislative behavior.

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