Nicholas Carnes and Benjamin E. Lauderdale, “Legislator Characteristics, Constituency Characteristics, and Roll Call Voting”

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Which matters more when legislators make decisions, their own characteristics or those of the people they represent? This paper uses comprehensive data on the personal attributes of both members of Congress and their constituents to com- pare the relative influence of eight legislator and constituency characteristics–party, race, gender, age, income, education, religion, and occupation–on roll call voting in the 109th and 110th Congresses. Our findings suggest that who governs matters considerably more than the literatures on representation and legislative decision-making have previously acknowledged: the effects of legislators’ own backgrounds are not limited to the handful of issue areas and personal characteristics that previous studies have examined. These findings strongly support recent calls for renewed attention to the “personal roots” of elite decision-making.

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I am a Professor and Head of Department of Political Science at University College London. My research is focused on the development of new methods for the measurement of political preferences and beliefs from survey, voting, network and text data. Currently my work is focused on public opinion and political behaviour in the UK, but my previous research has considered applications to citizens, legislators and judges across the US, UK, EU and beyond.

I have been a Senior Data Science Advisor to YouGov since 2016 and was previously an Associate Editor of the American Political Science Review (2016-2020). I worked at the London School of Economics from 2011 to 2018.

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