Using data on Senators' credit-claiming for COVID-19 relief efforts, we show how legislators' home styles (Fenno, 1978) are sensitive to contextual, constituency-level factors. Our analysis draws on an original dataset of 340,000+ Senate press releases issued between 1999 and 2020. After establishing senators' baseline propensity for credit-claiming (Mayhew, 1974), we examine whether their behavior changed as the pandemic unfolded. We find that at the margin of baseline behavior, the likelihood of credit-claiming for COVID-19 relief varied with state-level public opinion (a general measure of liberalism). These results challenge standard assumptions about representation in contemporary American politics, supporting a granular, context-specific understanding of home styles, and deepen our understanding of how Mayhew's (1974) model of reelection-seeking behavior holds in the modern era.
Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 4 Special issue - The Political Economy of Pandemics, Part I
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