Political Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 301–320 | Cite as

Rethinking Representation from a Communal Perspective

  • Mia Costa
  • Kaylee T. Johnson
  • Brian F. Schaffner
Original Paper


Most foundational theories of congressional representation were developed during an era of less polarized and less partisan politics. These theories viewed the incumbency advantage as buttressed by the fact that some constituents were willing to support legislators from the opposite party because of their “home styles.” But in an era of policy immoderation in Congress, this perspective leads to an assumption that citizens evaluate their members of Congress based on what those legislators do for them individually, rather than what they do for their districts more broadly. In this paper, we ask whether citizens take the interests of their fellow constituents into account when evaluating their members of Congress. Using both survey data and an experiment, we uncover support for the notion that citizens take a more communal view of representation as at least part of their evaluations of their representatives. This suggests individuals may have a more nuanced understanding of representation than purely self-interested approaches tend to assume.


Representation Congress Experiment 



We would like to thank Cameron Roche for his significant contributions to this project when it was in its early stages. We are also grateful to the American Politics Research Group at UMass, Thomas Wood, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback on the paper. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Awards 1154420 and 1430473)

Supplementary material

11109_2017_9393_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (152 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 152 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mia Costa
    • 1
  • Kaylee T. Johnson
    • 1
  • Brian F. Schaffner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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