Voting on social welfare policies in the U.S. Congress: The impact of constituency preferences on legislative behavior
This dissertation improves the explanatory ability of current legislative voting models by integrating measures of constituency preferences and characteristics, including the economic condition in the district, into those models. Few previous studies examine the ways that legislators attempt to provide economic benefits to their constituents through social welfare programs and expenditures. This dissertation is distinct from previous studies because it examines legislator reactions to constituent preferences over time and uses district-level data for each legislative district, rather than relying on examinations of national trends as some previous studies have done. The central thesis of this dissertation is that legislators will be motivated to support social welfare policies and programs if their constituents are likely to be supportive (or in need) of those policies and programs. The findings of this study suggest that members are responsive to their constituents. Members do act as if there is a link between their legislative decision making and the preferences of their constituents. If true representation requires that elected officials acknowledge the preferences and concerns of their constituents through their legislative activities, then members of Congress seem to fulfill that obligation. As had previously been found for other policy areas, partisan and ideological preferences influence legislative voting behavior within the context of social welfare policy. Members of Congress use their own preferences, as well as the preferences of their constituency, in evaluating legislation.