The Role of Personal Attributes in African American Roll-Call Voting Behavior in Congress

By Rocca, Michael S.; Sanchez, Gabriel R. et al. | Political Research Quarterly, June 2009 | Go to article overview

The Role of Personal Attributes in African American Roll-Call Voting Behavior in Congress


Rocca, Michael S., Sanchez, Gabriel R., Nikora, Ron, Political Research Quarterly


In this research note, the authors explore the extent to which personal attributes influence voting behavior for African American members of Congress. The authors test the relationship between legislators' personal attributes and Poole and Rosenthal's DW-DOMINATE scores for black members of the 101st to 108th Congresses. The results suggest that personal attributes matter. They increase the explained variance in the models, and factors such as generational cohort, religion, and military experience are statistically significant. These results suggest that while descriptive members of Congress share much in common, they should not be interpreted as monolithic with respect to congressional voting.

Keywords: descriptive representation; substantive representation; attributes; Latino; African American

The purpose of this research note is to examine the extent to which the personal attributes of black members of Congress (MCs) influence their voting behavior. The motivation for the study stems from two primary sources. First, the 2006 congressional elections led to an unprecedented number of black MCs chairing full committees: Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) of Ways and Means, the late Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) of House Administration, John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) of Judiciary, and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) of Homeland Security. Since black MCs tend to behave differently than white MCs (e.g., Swain 1993; Lublin 1997; Canon 1999; Tate 2003), notwithstanding Swain's (1992) analysis, it is reasonable to expect their newly acquired positions of influence to facilitate substantive changes in policy agendas.

Second, much of the work on black representation in Congress has tended to treat black MCs as a monolithic group (e.g., an MC is coded as either black or not black). But Canon (1999) and Tate (2003) are among those who have found interesting variation within the Congressional Black Caucus. Similarly, (2002) analysis contends that minority and female representatives are not monolithic and that some descriptive representatives are preferable to others. We applaud these efforts to move beyond a monolithic view of descriptive representation and advance this argument by exploring the diversity among black MCs and how it may affect their rollcall vote decisions.

We approach this study from the perspective that personal attributes matter to how MCs vote. We believe representatives' descriptive characteristics are important determinants of their ideology, a factor that students of Congress have long shown to be a key predictor of congressional voting (see Kingdon 1989; Poole and Rosenthal 1997). Our theory is grounded in the work of Easton and Dennis (1969) and Jennings and Niemi (1974), who argued that attitudes are a result of a lifelong process of political socialization and learning. To test our theory, we focus on five general agents of socialization for black MCs: education, religion, generational cohort, military experience, and nativity relative to their district. We also address gender, a factor that has consistently been shown to matter for congressional behavior.

Our results show that even after controlling for institutional and electoral factors, personal attributes indeed matter to how black MCs vote. This suggests that scholars interested in descriptive representation should move beyond simple dichotomous measures for race, ethnicity, or gender when studying minorities' congressional behavior.

Data and Method

We used Amer's (2005) CRS report as well as The Almanac of American Politics (Barone and Ujifusa 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004) to identify sixty-seven black members of the House during our period of study. The unit of analysis is the legislator-Congress, and the data take a cross-sectional time series form. Because most individuals served more than one term during this period of study, most appear multiple times in the data. To account for the nonindependence across observations, we cluster individual MCs in our ordinary least squares regression model. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Role of Personal Attributes in African American Roll-Call Voting Behavior in Congress
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.