The Public Side of Representation: A Study of Citizens' Views about Representatives and the Representative Process

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Overview

Representation lies at the very heart of our political system, yet few attempts have been made to examine citizens' views about the representative process. The Public Side of Representation fills that void. Through a series of in-depth interviews, Christopher J. Grill explores people's abstract beliefs about representation, expectations for members of Congress, views on the representative-constituent relationship, and conceptions of Congress as an institution. The resulting analysis describes what the participants view as the essential building blocks of the representative process, depicts how they think representatives should make voting decisions, explains what they believe are the most important roles for members of Congress, and appraises their understanding of the actual representative process. Highly readable and accessible, The Public Side of Representation provides greater insight into American politics, citizens' expectations about government, and the roots of public discontent with the contemporary political process.

About the Author:
Christopher J. Grill is an independent research consultant living in Rensselaer, New York

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…an exploratory work that challenges us to ask new questions, [this book] is … a success.” — Journal of Public Administration

“Representation is full of dilemmas. Using carefully structured and meticulously reported in-depth interviews, Christopher Grill shows that most citizens see those dilemmas clearly and are prone to resist simplistic solutions. In the tradition of Lane and Gamson, he shows that we can learn a great deal by letting ordinary people speak to difficult issues in their own words. The book is important both as a demonstration of the value of in-depth interviewing and for its contribution to our understanding of Americans’ attitudes toward political institutions.” — Paul J. Quirk, coauthor of Deliberative Choices: Debating Public Policy in Congress

“This insightful book reveals, as no other has, how strongly many constituents feel about communication—especially two-way communication—and political courage in their representatives. Constituents may also be more willing to be told unpalatable truths and may understand better the difficulties of representatives balancing the competing demands on their time than we have thought. An invaluable door has been opened to further research and institutional invention.” — Jane Mansbridge, coeditor of Oppositional Consciousness: The Subjective Roots of Social Protest

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791471692
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/2007
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher J. Grill is an independent research consultant living in Rensselaer, New York.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 Introduction and Overview 1

A Crisis of Representation? 1

The Missing Public 3

A Different Approach 5

Chapter 2 Research Methodology 9

Introduction 9

Approaching the Subject 10

The Research Process: Instrument and Interviews 13

The Research Process: Coding and Analysis 15

Profile of Respondents 16

The Idea of Political Sophistication 17

Conclusion 19

Chapter 3 The Idea of Representation 21

Introduction 21

The Nature of Responsiveness: Preface 22

Attentiveness 26

Openness and Accessibility 27

Involvement: Visibility and Direct Contact 28

Communication: The Heart of Representation 34

Concluding Remarks 42

Chapter 4 Representation in Practice 43

Introduction 43

Communication: Opportunities and Pitfalls 44

Making Voting Decisions: The Hypotheticals 47

Resolving Decision-Making Dilemmas 48

Vital Representational Functions: Explanation and Education 54

Assessment: Fenno, With Some Twists 64

Chapter 5 The Representative Relationship 67

Introduction 67

Representatives Defined 68

Members' Job Obligations 72

Role Expectations: The Rank Scales 77

Assessment 82

Representatives as Political Models? 83

"A Tough Job": Being a Representative 86

Members' Burdens: The Inherent Conflicts of Representation 90

The Balancing Act of Representation 93

Concluding Remarks 94

Chapter 6 Institutional Representation 97

Introduction 97

Conceptions of Congress 98

Institutional Roles: The Rank Scales 100

Assessment 103

View of the Congressional Democratic Process 104

The State of the Representative Process 109

Improving the Representative Process113

Conclusion: Conceptualizing Congress 120

Chapter 7 The Public Side of Representation 123

Revisiting the Idea of Representation: Insights and Implications 123

Institutional Representation 130

Surprising Sensitivity-and Blind Spots 131

Public Beliefs and the Representative Process 135

Some Final Thoughts 140

Appendix A Research Instruments 143

Appendix B Interview Excerpts 149

Appendix C Coding Tables 156

Notes 165

Bibliography 197

Index 203

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