How Modern Lawmakers Advertise Their Legislative Effectiveness to Constituents
In a complex information environment, members of Congress must communicate to their constituents their value as a representative. Specifically, they aim to convince voters that they are effective representatives and therefore ought to be reelected. Modern scholarship has focused largely on legislators’ effectiveness as lawmakers in areas like bill introduction, sponsorship, and shepherding of legislation through congressional procedures. But legislators do more than traditional lawmaking activities; they also engage in representational acts of advocacy and district-focused activity. This expanded notion of representational effectiveness is what legislators must publicize to constituents in order to maintain and build support and stay in office. Drawing on textual analysis of nearly 90,000 official newsletters from House members to their constituents from 2009-2020, Charles Hunt of Boise State University and Kristina Miler of University of Maryland (and CEL Faculty Affiliate) demonstrate that legislators actively publicize these three types of effectiveness, and the ways in which their communication strategies depend on personal, electoral, and institutional factors.