A Policy Approach to Political Representation: Lessons from the Four Corners States

By Helen M. Ingram; Nancy K. Laney et al. | Go to book overview

4
The voters' logic: how issues are clustered

The distinguishing mark of much of the current research professing a policy approach to politics, including this volume, is that policy is treated as an. independent variable.1 Rather than treating policy as the outcome of the political process, we assume that policy itself is a variable that affects political processes including the process of representation. The challenge and burden of this policy-oriented research is to conceptualize and classify policy in ways that allow us to test its relationship to characteristics of the political process. We have chosen to base policy typologies upon perceptions.2 We expect that voters' attitudes about policies cluster in ways that reflect commonly held perceptions of the stakes involved in the issues. An issue cluster identifies a shared constraint that voters impose on a number of discrete issues. Within a cluster, it is possible to predict the position a voter is likely to take on one issue by knowing the position he or she takes on others.

The existence of issue clusters is crucial to our conception of the operation of the process of representation. While we expect the process to vary among issue clusters, we believe that a search for legislators'

____________________
1
See for instance Lewis A. Froman, Jr., "The Categorization of Policy Contents", in Austin Ranney, ed., Political Science and Public Policy ( Chicago, Markham Publishing Company, 1968) p. 44.
2
For a further discussion of this approach see Robert H. Salisbury, "The Analysis of Public Policy", in Ranney, ed., Political Science and Public Policy, p. 157.

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