Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Document Type



Representation of citizens by elected officials is a core principle of American democracy (Eulau et al. 1959; Key 1961). Assuming the delegate approach to representation (Pitkin 1967), state legislative districts give voters the opportunity to elect representatives that will act in accordance with their wishes in the state policy arena. The extent to which a legislator’s policy votes reflect his constituents’ preferences is often referred to as “policy responsiveness” (Eulau and Karps 1977). While the make-up of the constituency shapes legislators’ positions in policy areas, legislative voting behavior also is indirectly influenced by personal and institutional factors. Previous research has found mixed effects of professionalism, term limits, and progressive ambition in shaping legislators’ behaviors. The main focus of this analysis is the effects, direct and indirect, of institutional variables on policy responsiveness. Through OLS regression and the use of National Federation of Independent Businesses’ legislator scores as a measure of conservatism in roll call voting, I find that responsiveness is influenced by institutional characteristics. An interaction model indicates positive and significant effects of professionalism on responsiveness, while district competition and the ambition of the legislature have strong negative effects. These effects differ for members of either party. Both Republicans and Democrats are influenced similarly by the effects of district competition and in the same direction by professionalism and progressive ambition. The effect of term limits, however, has differing effects on the partisan groups. The effect of the political context of a presidential election year is also tested, but this variable is found to have no significant effect on legislators’ responsiveness. The findings of these analyses indicate several institutional influences that condition the extent to which legislators reflect their constituents’ preferences.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Robert Hogan