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Citizen Participation and Congressional Responsiveness: New Evidence that Participation Matters


  • This research was supported by a Congressional Research Award from The Dirksen Congressional Center. Paul Martin was an APSA Congressional Research Fellow in the class of 2003.


This article examines the influence of citizen participation, specifically voter turnout, on congressional policy responsiveness. We argue that higher levels of citizen participation signal to representatives greater surveillance of their actions by their constituents and, thus, a higher probability of sanction. Representatives respond to these signals by deploying resources in ways that provide better intelligence of district needs and preferences. As a consequence, higher citizen participation is rewarded with enhanced policy responsiveness.