Mirror the Public?
Among practitioners we interviewed, as well as participants in our workshops, a widely stated belief was that members of Congress are a good mirror of attitudes in their district. Thus, it was argued, the aggregate legislative behavior of Congress is a good mirror of national attitudes, more reliable than national polls. The fact that Congress has taken legislative steps reducing U.S. international engagement was seen as clear evidence that this must reflect public attitudes.1
In the workshops, participants stressed that members of Congress must have a good sense of their constituents' policy attitudes, by virtue of their constant communication through calls, letters, and time spent in their district. One rejected the idea that Congress might be misreading the public, saying, "There isn't . . . this gap here that you think." He gave credence to "the members of Congress, when they say, look, I know how to get reelected." Another participant--a congressional staff member--said, "Obviously people who are in the election business have a fairly keen sense of where their constituents are." A third stressed that "there is genuinely a market for political information in Congress, a pretty competitive, robust market. If there's one thing members of Congress talk about with each other, it's what issues are playing back home, and in elections. . . . 'This is a hot-button issue, this can move numbers.' And so the question is, how
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Misreading the Public:The Myth of a New Isolationism. Contributors: Steven Kull - Author, I. M. Destler - Author. Publisher: Brookings Institution. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 193.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.