Henderson, John & John Brooks (2016) Mediating the Electoral Connection: The Information Effects of Voter Signals on Legislative Behavior. The Journal of Politics 78(3) DOI: 10.1086/685380.
We develop and assess an information account of representation. Accordingly, politicians face uncertainty about voter opinion and use previous vote margins to gauge future electoral outcomes. Losses in vote support elicit ideological moderation given new information about electorates. To test this account, we use rain around Election Day as a natural experiment in voting in the US House races from 1956 to 2008. We find that each additional inch of rainfall exogenously dampens Democratic vote margins by 1.4–2.0 percentage points and shifts incumbents rightward in their roll call positions in subsequent Congresses. We find responsiveness mainly in competitive districts with the greatest risk of defeat, and by Democrats rather than Republicans, suggesting an asymmetry in party representation. Overall, we highlight the importance of elite information uncertainty as a mechanism driving the electoral connection, and we show that idiosyncratic electoral effects can meaningfully impact legislative behavior.
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