Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Political Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation evaluates how citizens approach the representational relationship in a polarized world. How, if at all, do citizens’ perceptions of their legislators change when party identification dominates the political landscape? The answer from this study may be surprising to casual observers of American politics. First, I find that Americans’ views of their legislators are dynamic. Using original, nationally representative panel data, I find that perceptions of legislators move a significant amount on both a non-policy and policy dimension. Second, these levels of affect and congruence are systematically responsive to perceptions of legislators’ public efforts and home styles. Even in a time of clear partisan cleavages, legislators can change their reputations through their home styles. Third, I find that evaluations on both a policy and non-policy dimension have strong, significant effects on the public’s overall approval of the legislator. Although differences on policy at the elite level are quite stark, legislators can still make connections with constituents on a non-policy dimension that will build their support. This phenomenon is not limited to copartisans, but rather extends to independents and members of the opposite party. I extend these findings to examine differences between the public’s views of senators and House members. I find that structural forces lead Americans to view their two sets of federal legislators in different ways.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Steven S. Smith

Committee Members

Daniel Butler, Andrew Reeves, Jon C. Rogowski, Betsy Sinclair


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7QN656B