Movers and the Shirkers: Representatives and Ideologues in the
Senate (University of Michigan Press, 1999)
What is the
nature of representation? Why do some legislators seem to pursue
their own policy agenda and others only vote for the wishes of
a majority in their district? I demonstrate that current notions
of representation are too narrow and that members of Congress
do both pursue a policy agenda and represent their constituents's
I argue that most representatives do not have to choose between
following their ideals or constituency preferences, because voters
usually elect public officials who are in tune with their beliefs.
And because the constituency is a complex organization of sub-groups--some
of which are more critical to achieving re-election than others--the
legis-lator is able to form alliances with those who support the
legislator's policy preferences. The views of these groups within
the constituence become the views to which the legislator pays
most attention. In short, the author argues, politics are both
local and ideological.
I explore the intersection of a legislator ideology and the preferences
of various constituencies. In looking at how they interact and
how representation affects reelection, the book sheds new light
on the place of ideology in American politics.
Movers and the Shirkers
Pennsylvania State University
in the American
Political Science Review,
March 2001, 95, p. 224)
and the Shirkers is a critique and extension of a well-cited and
important research program: attempts to measure the degree to
which legislators shirk, or advance their own policy goals at
the expense of those held by their constituents. Such analyses
(e.g. Kalt and Zupan 1984; Lott 1987) typically assume a principal-agent
relationship between constituents and elected representatives,
and specify a regression analysis with roll-call behavior as a
left-hand side variable, and various measures of constituency
interests and legislator ideology as right-hand side variables.
Previous work (Jackson and Kingdon 1992) has shown that these
analyses are bedeviled by measurement and estimation issues. Here,
Eric Uslaner highlights a more fundamental flaw: by ignoring important
and well-understood mechanisms that tie legislators to their constituents,
these analyses assume what should be tested.
Uslaner's argument will ring true to anyone familiar with the
political science literature on representation. Rather than emphasizing
regular elections as the only mechanism that compels incumbents
to behave as their constituents demand, Uslaner focuses on recruitment
- the decision to run for office. Simply put, candidates who would
face large incentives to shirk, because their policy concerns
are cross-wise to those held by constituents, generally decide
against running in the first place, because they assume, correctly,
that they would have little chance of winning or holding office.
The result is that a sizable fraction of incumbents are well-matched
to their constituencies. For them, shirking is not an option -
in the main, doing right by their constituents furthers their
own policy concerns.
Uslaner also argues for a more nuanced definition of the constituency
in models of shirking. As he notes, it would be no surprise to
find that when disagreements exist, legislators would be more
responsive to the preferences of their reelection constituency
over the interests of their entire district. Thus, apparent shirking
- a mismatch between a legislator's behavior and constituent interests
broadly defined - may reflect the essence of democracy, an incumbent
trying to hold the support of the people who elected him or her.
The core of the book is a reanalysis of the Kalt-Zupan data on
voting in the U. S. Senate. Here Uslaner faces a classic dilemma:
use suspect data in order to facilitate a comparison with well-cited
findings, or use better data and abandon comparability. In the
main, he opts for comparability, which is a defensible choice,
although my preference would have been to emphasize Poole-Rosenthal
NOMINATE scores as an alternate measure of legislator ideology.
However, Uslaner moves beyond contemporary analyses of shirking
by estimating a multiple-equation model of roll call behavior.
He also exploits some additional sources of data, including a
CBS poll of Senate incumbents.
Uslaner's analysis finds little systematic shirking. Such shirking
as does occur is more directed at satisfying reelection constituencies
rather than furthering an incumbent's policy goals at the expense
of his or her constituents. Moreover, the policy preferences held
by Senate incumbents are strongly related to those held by the
people who elected them - their geographic and reelection constituencies.
The point is not that Senate incumbents are well-controlled; rather,
to paraphrase John Kingdon, they just reflect where they came
The results do not preclude shirking on proposals that do not
attract significant attention among constituents, or isolated,
idiosyncratic shirking that is masked by aggregate measures. What
they confirm is that by largely ignoring recruitment, contemporary
analyses of shirking have ignored a critical mechanism that binds
legislators to their constituents.
An additional strength of this book is Uslaner's self-consciousness
about method. The analysis chapters emphasize how measures were
constructed and specifications arrived at, as well as the impact
of alternate variables and models. In this sense, the book would
be ideal for discussions in a graduate methods class. Readers
may disagree with some of Uslaner's assumptions - but the point
is that these areas of disagreement are easy to find.
In sum, The Movers and the Shirkers is an important correction
to contemporary studies of representation. Uslaner's analysis
moves the debate over shirking away from expectations based on
simplistic principal - agent models, and towards a more realistic
specification of the ties that bind incumbents to their constituencies.
E. and John W. Kingdon. 1992. "Ideology, Interest Groups,
and Legislative Votes." American Political Science Review.
P. and Mark Zupan. 1984. "Capture and Ideology in the Economic
Theory of Politics." American Economic Review. 74: 279-300.
R. 1987. "Political Cheating." Public Choice. 61: 75-96.
Decline of Comity in Congress (University of Michigan Press, 1993;
My most widely
cited book to date. I argue that increasing levels of incivility
within the Congress reflects the loss of trust among the American
people. Institutional reform will thus not solve the problem of
gridlock in Washington. American legislators are not isolated
from their constituents. Instead, they may represent their constituents
and Social Order (co-edited with Karol Soltan and Virginia Haufler)
is the buzzword of the 1980s and 1990s in the social sciences.
What is new in the contemporary analysis of institutions and what
does it offer to the study of social order? In this book a distinguished
group of social scientists drawn from political science, economics,
and sociology, explore this question and show us how different
theoretical approaches to institutional analysis can be joined
to build a more thorough understanding of institutions.
The modern analysis of institutions has taken two separate paths.
Rational choice theories identified institutions as a strategic
response to collective action problems and as instruments for
the promotion of cooperation. Contrary to these theories, such
cooperation is fundamental to social order and a prerequisite
for economic growth and development. An alternate form of institutionalism,
drawn from sociological and historical analysis, de-emphasized
the role of choice, strategy, and design in the construction of
many of the major institutions in social life. This form of institutional
analysis pointed to the role of prior choices, common norms, and
culture in making certain options and choices unthinkable or impossible.
Institutions, according to this view, may represent a certain
kind of social order, but they do not always promote cooperation
and economic growth. The more recent theories in the "new
institutionalism" bring these seemingly irreconcilable perspectives
closer together. New institutionalists argue that institutions
must be grounded in the social fabric, and thus rational choice
must be combined with historical and cultural variables. The papers
collected in this volume address the merging of rational choice
and historical-sociological institutionalism in the "new
The contributors are Randall L. Calvert, Christopher Clague, Kathleen
Cook, Peter Hall, Virginia Haufler, James Johnson, Gary Miller,
Karol Soltan, Rosemary C. R. Taylor, Eric M. Uslaner, and Barry
Barrel Politics: Energy and Legislative Leadership (Stanford University
of why the United States did not adopt an energy policy in the
1970s and 1980s despite widespread calls to do so-and why Canada
was successful in adopting a national energy policy. Case studies
of synthetic fuels, natural gas deregulation, and the politics
of energy in Congressional committees suggest that we cannot simply
blame our constitutional system for policy failures. Energy policy
is distinctive-because the stakes are so high and there are multiple
preference cyles on this wide-ranging issue area. In Canada, the
stakes were even higher but the conflict was more straightforward
Foreign Policy and the Democratic Dilemmas 6th edition (co-authored
with John W. Spanier, Brooks-Cole)
edition of my text on the domestic roots of foreign policy, co-authored
with John W. Spanier of the University of Florida. We highlight
the difficulties of making foreign policy in a democratic polity
and pay particular attention to the role of public opinion, political
parties, the Congress, and interest groups.
Are Chosen: Problems in Presidential Selection with Robert E.
DiClerico (McGraw-Hill, 1984, out of print)
of the Presidential nominating and election process, focusing
on how Presidents have obtained the nomination over time, whether
conventions or primaries are preferable, and Presidential candidate
strategy in the electoral college. We consider the possibility
that the nomination process might be improved if power were returned
to party leaders and taken away from primary voters.
of Decision-Making in State Legislatures, co-authored with Ronald
E. Weber, Praeger Special Studies, 1977
of the factors state legislators use when making up their minds
on key issues. Ronald E. Weber and I focus on the sources of influence
that legislators perceive. Drawing on a national survey of state
legislators in all 50 states conducted in 1974-75, we investigate
how legislators respond to pleas from party and committee leaders,
governors, and fellow legislators.
Political Parties: A Reader (F.E. Peacock, 1993)
A book of
readings, now out of print, on the American party system. Includes
new pieces specially commissioned for this volume by leading scholars
such as Robert H. Salisbury, Norman Ornstein, and James Gibson,
as well as reprints of classic articles by Leon D. Epstein, Warren
E. Miller, Benjamin Ginsberg and Martin Shefter, David W. Brady,
John R. Petrocik,
and many others.
Capital and Participation in Everyday Life (Paul Dekker and Eric
M. Uslaner eds., Routledge 2001)
volume based upon the Joint Sessions of Workshops of the European
Consortium for Political Research at the University of Warwick
(UK) in 1998. The essays in this book focus on how social capital
matters to everyday life. Why do people get involved with others
and what are the implications of civic engagement? Are all forms
of civic engagement equally critical for a civil society? What
motivates people to get involved in some arenas of civic life
and not in others? The contributors to this volume are a mixture
of Europeans and Americans, so the analytical framework is necessarily