Multidimensional Responsiveness: The Determinants of Legislators' Representational Priorities


  • This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant #SES-1119697 and by a Thomas M. Uhlman Summer Research Fellowship at UNC-Chapel Hill. I thank Tom Carsey, Virginia Gray, Jerry Wright, Lynda Powell, Chris Clark, Scott Adler, Jenny Wolak, Graeme Blair, Danielle Thomsen, seminar participants at CU-Boulder, and the state politics working group at UNC-Chapel Hill for helpful comments. All errors are my own. The online appendix to this article can be found at


American politics scholars typically conceptualize representation narrowly as mass-elite policy responsiveness, with many studies identifying factors that hinder that relationship. These findings contrast with the high reelection rates in American legislatures. I show that policy is only one of several dimensions through which legislators provide representation. I unify policy, service, allocation, and descriptive representation in a model of legislators' priorities and then test it with survey experiments administered to 1,175 state legislators. I posit that legislators systematically emphasize different dimensions to further the goal of reelection. Results show that legislative institutions, district demand, and individual traits structure legislators' strategic representational priorities.