Party, Constituency, and Congressional Voting: A Study of Legislative Behavior in the United States House of Representatives

Party, Constituency, and Congressional Voting: A Study of Legislative Behavior in the United States House of Representatives

Party, Constituency, and Congressional Voting: A Study of Legislative Behavior in the United States House of Representatives

Party, Constituency, and Congressional Voting: A Study of Legislative Behavior in the United States House of Representatives

Excerpt

Despite a prodigious amount of literature devoted to the study of Congress, the institution remains, in David Truman's apt phrase, a "wellknown stranger." There is profound irony in this simple statement of fact in an age when American political scientists have increasingly turned away from the study of supposedly familiar "formal institutions" of government in quest of grand generalizations about "the political system" in the abstract.

The present study treats but a small portion of the professional literature on Congress--that dealing with party, constituency and voting behavior. Since this literature dates back more than half a century, one might assume that the major questions which intrigued its authors would long ago have been answered. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise. As Chapters I and II of this study demonstrate, the literature of congressional voting, taken as a whole, falls far short of providing contemporary students of Congress with an adequate understanding of party and constituency as factors influencing the congressman's behavior.

One major difficulty with the literature of party, constituency, and congressional voting stems directly from its largely ahistorical nature. Various students have conceptualized research problems as if they involved "time-proof" phenomena, yet even cursory scrutiny will reveal that these phenomena vary greatly from period to period. Consequently, carefully derived generalizations--accurately descriptive of Congress in one period, no doubt--have often proved extremely vulnerable to the passage of time. Precisely because congressional phenomena will not . . .

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