Viewing Representative Behavior through the Lens of Social and Political Identity


  • Robin Lauermann



Much scholarly attention has been paid to the representative activities of members of the national legislature. Equally important to representative democracy, however, are the perceptions and evaluations of these members by their constituents. Using the 2000 American National Election Studies survey, this article assesses the impact of social and political identity in the formation of constituency perceptions of members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Demographic characteristics and political predispositions affect the relevance of the four measures of legislator responsiveness--policy, casework, district service, and symbolic responsiveness--to each constituent's evaluation. Ethnicity, age, gender, and education affect the degree of importance of each measure to constituents; women, minorities, and older citizens are more concerned with symbolic actions on the part of their representatives. Furthermore, the descriptive composition of a representative's constituency has an influence not only with respect to policy choices the member may make, but also with regard to understanding how particular behaviors are successful in establishing a relationship between the representative and those represented.