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Representation in State Legislatures

Representation in State Legislatures

Copyright Date: 1982
Edition: 1
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Representation in State Legislatures
    Book Description:

    Every two years American voters turn out to elect several thousand representatives to state legislatures. Only now inRepresentation in State Legislaturesdo we have a detailed examination of how these officials perceive their jobs and how they attempt to do them. To provide answers to these questions, Malcolm E. Jewell conducted intensive interviews with 220 members of houses of representatives in nine selected states. He asked each legislator how he kept in touch with his constituents, how he resolved matters of policy, how he sought government resources for his district, and what services he provided for individual constituents.

    State legislatures differ greatly, and they are not institutionalized to the same degree as the national congress. It is difficult, therefore, to generalize on such effects as partisanship. Likewise it appears that past explanatory models do not adequately describe the complex relationships seen by most legislators in their work. The state legislature is changing. It is becoming more institutionalized. It is becoming more stable as fewer members retire and more are reelected. The trend is toward longer sessions, increased staff, and more activity. With this trend the legislator is becoming more visible; he can deal with lawmaking while having greater opportunities to provide services and to gain publicity for them.

    As the move, begun by the Reagan administration, to put more responsibility for programs on the states continues, the state legislatures will assume a place of greater importance in the governing of the United States. This pioneering study of representation will thereby gain significance both for the understanding it imparts and for the new questions it raises.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4776-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. 1. Representation in State Legislatures
    (pp. 1-22)

    In late 1978 and early 1979 I spent many weeks in the capitals of nine American states talking to legislators about how they represent their constituents. The question may appear to be a simple one, but the answers I received show that representation has many dimensions and that legislators approach it differently, depending on the state and the particular district they represent as well as their own perceptions and political styles. I found that there is no average legislator and no set of answers to the questions about representation that might be considered typical. But examples of a couple of...

  6. 2. Legislative Elections
    (pp. 23-48)

    Every two years several thousand primary and general elections are held to fill seats in the state legislature. From the viewpoint of the voter, they are overshadowed by presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional races and often by other contests at the local level. From the viewpoint of political scientists, they are equally obscure. With few exceptions, we lack both comprehensive statistical analyses and detailed case studies, and we also lack survey data on voting behavior in state legislative contests. Most legislative districts are smaller and more homogeneous than congressional districts. This should make legislative races less competitive, lower keyed, and less...

  7. 3. Communicating with Constituents
    (pp. 49-77)

    For a legislator to communicate effectively with his constituents, he must be accessible, he must learn the needs and views of his constituents, and he must make his views and actions known to them. A prerequisite for successful communication is that the legislator must recognize its importance. He must want to play the role of leader and educator in his constituency. The legislator who fails to recognize the importance of communication will not devote the time and resources that are necessary to the task.

    Effective communication, however, is more than a matter of recognizing priorities and having good intentions. It...

  8. 4. Policy Responsiveness: The Ingredients
    (pp. 78-102)

    What is the relationship between the views of constituents on issues and the perceptions, attitudes, and behavior of the representative on these issues? How does the legislator make judgments about constituent opinion and policy matters that are salient to his district? The underlying premise of policy responsiveness, according to Eulau and Karps (1978, p. 63), “is the presence of a meaningful connection between constituent policy preferences or demands and the representative’s official behavior.”

    I will begin by examining major categories of issues because the ingredients of policy responsiveness differ from one kind of policy to another. The next step is...

  9. 5. Policy Responsiveness: How Choices Are Made
    (pp. 103-134)

    The process of representing constituents on policy matters requires legislators to make a number of choices. What factors affect those choices? To this question we now turn.

    When legislators discuss the process by which they make decisions that are important to constituents, the discussion is not abstract; it is issue-specific. Just as the decision-making process differs by issues, it differs by individuals; no two legislators perceive the process exactly the same way. The terms trustee and delegate define broad approaches to decision-making. We are interested in the personal perspectives and the reasons given by legislators to explain their approaches. We...

  10. 6. Allocation and Service Responsiveness
    (pp. 135-164)

    Allocation responsiveness concerns the legislator’s efforts to gain governmental goods and services for the district. They are general rather than individual benefits, but they frequently benefit one part of the district or one group more than others; this would be the case of a request for a stop light, a neighborhood park, or better police protection for a neighborhood. Service responsiveness pertains to the needs of individuals or groups who want help in dealing with government agencies. In some cases these may be national or local agencies, and not just state ones; occasionally legislators are asked by constituents for help...

  11. 7. Representation: Public Perspectives and Conclusions
    (pp. 165-188)

    This study has analyzed state legislative representation from the viewpoint of the representatives rather than the represented. This strategy is dictated by the fact that the study relies heavily on interviews with legislators; resources were not available to survey constituents in the districts of the 220 legislators. A comprehensive study of representation requires some understanding of constituent perspectives: the public awareness, expectations, and perceptions about state legislators. I will seek here a more modest goal: to discuss the potential effects of public perspectives on representation and to describe some of the scattered data that are available concerning the ways constituents...

  12. Appendix: Criteria for Selection of States and Methodology
    (pp. 189-192)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 193-194)
  14. References
    (pp. 195-200)
  15. Index
    (pp. 201-204)