Retrospective Voting and Political Representation


  • I thank John Duggan, Mark Fey, Justin Fox, Stephen Gent, Tasos Kalandrakis, Insun Kang, Jackie Kimble, Maggie Penn, Bing Powell, John Roemer, Jim Rogers, Sebastian Saiegh, William Thomson, Michael Wallerstein, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and discussions on this article or its predecessors. This article also has benefited from comments of the seminar participants at the University of Chicago, at Yale University, at the 2004 APSA meeting, at the 2005 Public Choice meeting, and at the 2006 SPSA meeting. All errors are my own.

Seok-ju Cho is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8301 (


This article develops a theoretical model of political representation under the single-member district system. I establish the existence of equilibria in which legislative voting of each legislator depends only on her preference and her electorate's preference and voters sanction badly behaved incumbents and retain well-behaved ones based solely on their own representatives' roll-call records. In equilibrium, voters achieve a partial representation with respect to representatives' behavior in each district. However, with respect to representation of the social majority, my findings are indeterminate. On the one hand, there exists an equilibrium in which the majority-preferred alternative is the outcome guaranteed, except in very special circumstances. On the other hand, this equilibrium is not generally the unique equilibrium, and, for some parameter values, there is an equilibrium in which the majority-preferred alternative is less likely than the alternative preferred only by the minority to be the outcome.