The central intellectual merit of this study is in providing a better understanding of the cornerstone of American democracy: political representation. Scholars have devoted several decades of research to representation, but past work typically studied the concept froma narrow perspective. The literature indentifies four dimensions, or components, of representation: (1) policy, or the influence of constituent opinion on voting behavior, (2) service, which involves individual assistance to constituents, (3) allocation, or the securing of funding for districts projects, and (4) symbolic, which denotes a connection from identity traits. Although this work collectively provides a comprehensive view of representation, most individual studies only focus on one component, and thus omit important elements of the process. Furthermore, most past research focuses on the behavior of elites. Less is known about citizens' preferences for the components of representation. This research utilizes three sources of original data to develop a supply-and-demand theory of representation that unifies those four dimensions and accounts for both elites' priorities (supply) and citizen demand.
First, the investigator examines the supply of representation through survey experiments administered to state legislators and with a new archive of state legislators' websites. Both data sources are used to assess how representatives prioritize the components of representation when interacting with constituents. Second, the study also examines citizen demand for representation through survey experiments administered to a sample of American adults. Preliminary results show that demand is driven by how citizens expect government to play a role in their lives.
This research will have several broader impacts. Upon completion, the three datasets will be made publicly available (the surveys in anonymous form). This project also has social value because it will inform discussions of the quality of representation in America.
This project produced several tangible results in three different categories: a completed dissertation, material for scholarly publications, new datasets, and experience for graduate students. Dissertation With the help of this funding I successfully completed my dissertation in April 2012 and defended it on May 5, 2012. The grant played a big role in helping me complete the dissertation in a timely fashion. It was beneficial because by finishing on time, I was able to secure employment on the faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder. I will begin teaching in January 2013. Material for Scholarly Publications This grant has produced a great deal of material for scholarly publications. The three empirical chapters of the dissertation have all been presented as stand-alone articles at professional conferences. The first two chapter are currently under review at political science journals. I am now revising the third chapter for submission. Additionally, I plan to put the entire project into a book manuscript in the next calendar year. Finally, I had sufficient space to put additional questions on the survey of citizens for other projects that relate to, but are not directly a part of, the dissertation. In particular, I included two additional experiments on descriptive representation not included in the original proposal. These questions will produce two additional papers. One is currently being written and will be presented at a scholarly conference in October 2012. The other will be written next year. Overall, I expect this grant to produce 4-5 articles and a book. New Datasets This grant produced three new datasets: the survey of citizens, the survey of state legislators, and the website archive. These will become publicly available at the end of the embargo period. Of particular note is the website archive, which produced a final sample size of about 1500 websites---to my knowledge the largest such dataset. I also have complete images of all of the websites so more data can be collected from them beyond the variables I collected. Other scholars will be able to use these data to build on the work I publish with them and to address new questions about representation and legislative behavior. Experience for Graduate Students The grant paid graduate students to complete coding projects for the website data. In addition to providing them with a job, these opportunities gave those students valuable research experience. The coders were all younger students who were able to see research in action by doing it themselves. This will help them as they progress to the dissertation phase of their own graduate careers.