University of Maryland  

Eric M. Uslaner

*Click on the pictures to see book summaries*


The Movers and Shirkers: 
Representatives and Ideologues
 in the Senate

University of Michigan Press (1999)

Read the review of The Movers and Shakers
published in the American Political
Science Review
The Decline of Comity 
in Congress

University of Michigan Press (1993)
paperback (1996)


Institutions and Social Order

co-edited with Karol Soltan 
and Virginia Haufler

University of Michigan Press

Segregation and Mistrust

Shale Barrel Politics: 
Energy and Legislative Leadership  
Stanford University Press (1989)
American Foreign Policy Making
and the Democratic Dilemmas
6th edition

with John W. Spanier,

Few Are Chosen:
Problems in Presidential Selection

with Robert E. DiClerico

McGraw-Hill (1984)
out of print
Patterns of Decision Making
in State Legislatures

co-authored with Ronald E. Weber

Praeger Special Studies (1977)

American Political Parties:
A Reader

F.E. Peacock (1993)

click here for used copies

Social Capital and Participation
in Everyday Life

Paul Dekker and Eric M. Uslaner eds.

Routledge (2001)

The Moral Foundations of Trust

Cambridge University Press, 2002

click on links for details and to order

Social Capital and the Transition to Democracy

co-edited with Gabriel Badescu (Routledge)

Corruption, Inequality, and the Rule of Law (Cambridge, 2008)


The 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 interests.
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.


Review of

The Movers and the Shirkers

William Bianco

The Pennsylvania State University

(published in the American Political Science Review,

March 2001, 95, p. 224)

The Movers 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 from.
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.

Jackson, John E. and John W. Kingdon. 1992. "Ideology, Interest Groups, and Legislative Votes." American Political Science Review. 36: 805-23.

Kalt, Joseph P. and Mark Zupan. 1984. "Capture and Ideology in the Economic Theory of Politics." American Economic Review. 74: 279-300.

Lott, John R. 1987. "Political Cheating." Public Choice. 61: 75-96.

The Decline of Comity in Congress (University of Michigan Press, 1993; paperback, 1996)

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 too well.


Institutions and Social Order (co-edited with Karol Soltan and Virginia Haufler)

"Institutionalism" 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 institutionalism."
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 Weingast.


Shale Barrel Politics: Energy and Legislative Leadership (Stanford University Press, 1989)

An analysis 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 (and unidimensional).


American Foreign Policy and the Democratic Dilemmas 6th edition (co-authored with John W. Spanier, Brooks-Cole)

The sixth 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.


Few Are Chosen: Problems in Presidential Selection with Robert E. DiClerico (McGraw-Hill, 1984, out of print)

An analysis 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.


Patterns of Decision-Making in State Legislatures, co-authored with Ronald E. Weber, Praeger Special Studies, 1977

An analysis 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.


American 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.


Social Capital and Participation in Everyday Life (Paul Dekker and Eric M. Uslaner eds., Routledge 2001)

An edited 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 quite broad.


Moral Foundations of Trust

Chinese edition