The belief among citizens that their views are represented is essential to the legitimacy of American democracy, but few studies have explicitly examined which political actors Americans feel best represent them. Using data from the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we ask new questions about whether respondents who share a partisan, racial, or gender identification with their members of Congress (MCs) feel those members best represent them. Although the framers designed the House so that individuals’ own MCs would be their closest and most responsive representatives, a majority of respondents turn to other actors for representation. Partisanship is a key reason for this attenuated connection, as respondents who do not share a partisan identification with their MCs are more likely than those who do to rely on their party’s congressional leaders or advocacy organizations for representation instead. Sharing a racial identification with one’s own MC can strengthen representational connections as respondents who share a racial identity with their MCs are significantly more likely than respondents who do not to indicate that their MC represents them “the most.” These results shed light on enduring questions about the significance of symbolic representation and its link to partisanship and descriptive representation.
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- descriptive representation
- symbolic representation