How well do members of Congress stay in touch with their constituents?

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  • How well do members of Congress stay in touch with their constituents?
    • Well
      • High rates of incumbency success, typically over 90% in the House and 80% in the Senate, suggesting high levels of voter satisfaction
      • Senators and representatives make considerable efforts to keep in touch with their constituents, radio, TV, franking privileges, newsletters, recess
      • Senators and representatives devote much of their legislative energy to obtaining benefits for their states and districts (pork)
      • Elections every two years in the House mean representatives have to stay in touch to remain electable
      • Senators and representatives often have high individual approval ratings
    • Not well
      • There are consistently low approval ratings of Congress as an institution
        • As of May 2014 only 15% of the public approved of the way Congress was handling its job
      • Safe seats and gerrymandered districts means that many senators and representatives face no serious challenge in the general electionn
        • Only threat is through a primary challenge, consequently the only constituency they have an incentive to represent is primary voters
      • Lack of term limits creates an unrepresentative elite
      • The high cost of elections deters challenges and means that senators and representatives are beholden to donors rather than voters


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