Dyadic Representation

Stephen Ansolabehere and Philip Edward Jones

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559947
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Dyadic Representation

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Congressional representation occurs at two levels: local and national. Constituents select their representative and the country as a whole selects the entire Congress. The understanding of congressional elections and representation similarly operates on two levels: the relationship between the individual representative and his or her constituents; and the relationship between the national conditions and the politics of the legislature as a whole. This article focuses on the first level which defines the meaning of representation in the United States. It discusses dyadic representation, or the connection between the individual members of Congress and their constituents. For Americans, Congress refers to the concept of “my representative”, the individual who represents the district in which they live. Through the lens of public policy and legislative votes, dyadic representation has many forms and faces. Dyadic representation means how well the sitting legislator acts as an agent for the constituency on legislative decisions. For American politicians, representation also means taking the role of an advocate, ombudsman, fixer, local celebrity, and friend for their constituents. This article also discusses policy and non-policy forms of dyadic representation. It discusses the policy (dyadic) and party (collective) representation which characterizes representation in the United States. The individualistic and collective nature of American representation in the United States has great influence on the members of Congress. Within this context, the party affiliation, the policy preferences of the constituents, and the policy preferences of an individual legislator play in an interweaving manner in shaping the actions and preferences of the members of Congress. The remaining part of the article focuses on the strength of the dyadic relationship in the U.S., from macro-level election data, and the ways that it is manifested in micro-level survey data.

Keywords: Congressional representation; constituents; representative; representation; dyadic representation; policy representation

Article.  10285 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Institutions

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