Do Constituents Know (or Care) about the Lawmaking Effectiveness of their Representatives?
With Election Day quickly approaching, voters everywhere are readying themselves to cast their vote for their candidate of choice. While voters consider a wide array of factors when determining who to vote for, we sought to explore whether a representative’s lawmaking effectiveness might influence a voter’s evaluation of his/her potential choices?
Substantial evidence exists that members of the U.S. Congress vary in their lawmaking effectiveness; and many classic studies of congress point to examples of Representatives and Senators articulating their respective strengths in advancing their legislative agendas when making their cases for reelection to their constituents . Anecdotes aside, however, it is less clear whether constituents have the knowledge and inclination to evaluate their representatives, based on their lawmaking effectiveness.
To engage with these questions, we conducted three separate survey experiments, in which we informed some constituents about their representatives’ lawmaking effectiveness, and comparing their responses to those voters who were not presented with such information. Across our experiments, we find that respondents, whether they be rank-and-file citizens and likely voters, or more experienced municipal officials, all demonstrate relatively little knowledge of the lawmaking effectiveness of their elected officials.
When presented with objective and credible information about lawmaking effectiveness of their representatives, however, these groups express greater approval of more effective lawmakers.
These effects were strongest among ideologically moderate respondents, but the effects were even pronounced among partisans, who approved of effective representatives of the opposing party and disapproved of ineffective representatives from their own party. In contrast, the new information we provided had relatively little effect on the subset of municipal officials who already had extensive prior contact with their representatives.