What gets rewarded? Legislative activity and constituency approval


Members of Congress (MCs) are concerned about reelection and act in office with this goal in mind. Whether citizens notice this behavior and how they respond remains an open question. We examine the relationships between legislators’ characteristics and activity and their constituents’ evaluations of their performance in office. We argue that MCs’ behavior does filter down to citizens, but that their responses are conditioned by their partisanship and interest in politics. Our analyses combine 2006 and 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study survey data on citizens with information on legislators’ activity in office in the 109th and 110th Congresses. The results reveal that there are widespread linkages between MC behavior and constituency approval, but that legislators’ copartisan, outpartisan, and independent constituents respond in different, yet predictable, ways. Moreover, these effects are strongest among the most interested constituents. Our findings have important implications for our assessments of legislators’ strategies and constituency representation.

Political Research Quarterly