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Approaches to Studying Policy Representation

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Some studies of policy representation test hypotheses about the relationship between citizens' views and elites' positions on multiple issues by proceeding one issue at a time. Others summarize citizens' and elites' preferences with "ideology scores" and test hypotheses with these. I show that approach is flawed. It misinterprets citizens' ideology scores as summaries of policy preferences, but these scores actually measure ideological consistency across areas: how often citizens' ideal policies are liberal or conservative. Examples show how attending to this distinction overturns conventional wisdom: legislators appear similarly moderate as citizens, not more extreme; however, politically engaged citizens appear especially moderate.

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