Are Voters Better Represented?

Authors


John D. Griffin (John.Griffin@nd.edu) is assistant professor of political science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.

Brian Newman (Brian.Newman@pepperdine.edu) is assistant professor of political science, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA 90263.

Abstract

Studies of political participation and representation often contend that elected officials respond more to the preferences of voters than those of nonvoters, but seldom test this claim. This is a critical assumption because if true, biases in who participates will lead to biased representation. Office holders might respond disproportionately to voters’ preferences because voters tend to select like-minded representatives, voters tend to communicate their preferences more, and only voters can reelect representatives. We find that voter preferences predict the aggregate roll-call behavior of Senators while nonvoter preferences do not. We also present evidence supporting the three explanations advanced to account for the preferential treatment of voters.

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