Representation and Constituency Relations

This paper explores the complex relationship between representatives and their constituents from normative, empirical, and cross-national perspectives. Among the issues considered are the extent to which representatives are obligated to take into consideration the opinions of their constituents as they make public policy decisions, and the potential tension between the representative’s obligations to constituency interests and to the national interest. Empirically, the difficulties that representatives encounter as they seek to determine the views of their constituents are considered as well as his or her efforts to shape constituency opinion. The service activities of legislators and their efforts to deliver public resources to their constituents are explored from a comparative perspective. Cross-national variation in the manner in which legislators perform their various representational roles is traced to variations in electoral and party systems. Finally, lessons for legislative development are identified with particular emphasis on the tension between the representational activities of legislators and their capacity to both build public support for the institution and make effective public policy.

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