Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 11 > Issue 1

The Elusive Quest for Convergence

Anthony Fowler, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago, USA, anthony.fowler@uchicago.edu , Andrew B. Hall, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, USA, andrewbhall@stanford.edu
Suggested Citation
Anthony Fowler and Andrew B. Hall (2016), "The Elusive Quest for Convergence", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 11: No. 1, pp 131-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00015082

Publication Date: 18 Apr 2016
© 2016 A. Fowler and A. B. Hall
Elections,  Legislatures,  Electoral behavior,  Electoral institutions,  Lawmaking,  Legislatures,  Political parties
Electionspolitical representationlegislatures


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In this article:
1. Data and Measurement 
2. Results: A Failure of Convergence across 8 Policy Domains 
3. What Explains Divergence? 
4. Conclusion 


Does American political representation work as predicted by theory? On average, political candidates diverge considerably in their ideological positioning, but do they diverge less on issues of particular salience to their local constituents? We combine data on congressional roll call votes, electoral outcomes, district demographics, and substantive information about bills to search for convergence in the places we would most expect to find it. Despite the predictions of prominent models, legislators diverge just as much even when their constituents have strong interests in a particular policy area. These results provide new insights into policymaking and political representation, and they help distinguish between different theoretical explanations for why candidate positions diverge.