“U.S. Members in Their Constituencies: An Exploration” by Richard F. Fenno, Jr.
This article explores the relationship between a representative and his or her constituency. It is a development of the bulk of the literature available on the subject matter. The author gets inspiration from two weighty questions for which he seeks answers. Firstly, he wants to know what goes on in a representative’s mind when the representative sees his or her constituency. Secondly, and as a follow-up, the author wants to know the consequences of a representative’s perception of his or her constituency. To answer these questions, Fenno argues that one must see the constituency through its representative’s eyes. Only this way can one obtain a better understanding of the relationship. The representative sees his constituency in many ways. Firstly, he or she sees it as a district (that is, a geographical territory within the state over which he or she has authority). Under this huge umbrella of a district, the representative sees another segment – the supporters. These form the re-election constituency because the areas are the richest in votes compared to other areas. Still under the re-election constituency, the representative sees the strongest of his or her supporters. These form the primary constituency. Routine supporters often vote the person regardless of the party or any affiliations. Lastly, under the primary constituency, the representative sees the personal constituency made up of his or her closest associates – those who he or she confides in to discuss constituency matters. These perceptions make the representative handle the constituency in different ways. The support he offers to the constituents increase as one shift from the district level to the personal constituency. This is informed primarily by the need to consolidate the strongest support for a re-election.
Fenno, Richard. “U.S. House Members in Their Constituencies: An Exploration.”JSTOR. American Political Science Association, 10 Sept. 1977. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1960097 .>.
“Appropriators not Position Takers: The Distorting Effects of Electoral Incentives on Congressional Representation” by Justin Grimmer
This article is a response to Richard Fenno’s article U.S. Members in Their Constituencies: An Exploration and other similar works. Richard argued that the perceptions of a representative on the constituency influence the representatives’ home styles (that is, the way he treats each segment of his or her constituency). However, Grimmer argues that these perceptions can have negative consequences on collective representation. In as much as a representative is in charge of his or her constituency, collective representation has an important role in cementing the relationship with constituents. The author uses several measures to demonstrate how “representation” depends on “the represented.” Representatives who are not in good terms with their constituents often avoid taking positions when crucial matters are being discussed in the Senate. On the contrary, representatives in good terms with constituents tend to take positions in Senate debates. Aggregately, therefore, this representative-constituency relationship causes ideological bias in the positions taken by representatives in the Senate. Aligned Senators are more likely to take part in policy debates than their misaligned counterparts are. According to the author, this division hugely influences American politics. Representatives are in charge of larger areas today than it was some 30 years ago. This new dominion is a rich incentive for articulating policy-focused home styles. On the other hand, the Congress is highly polarized as a result of the differing alignments, which lead to ideological differences. Not only does Grimmer’s analysis demonstrate how electoral connection affects overall representation, but it also demonstrates the need for constituents to weed out non-performing representatives.
Grimmer, Justin. “Appropriators not Position Takers: The Distorting Effects of Electoral
Incentives on Congressional Representation.” American Journal of Political Science, 57.3 (2013): 624-642