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Author: John W Kingdon
ISBN13: 978-0060436575
Title: Congressmen's voting decisions
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ePUB size: 1123 kb
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Language: English
Category: Politics and Government
Publisher: Harper & Row; 2nd edition (1981)
Pages: 346

Congressmen's voting decisions by John W Kingdon

John Wells Kingdon (born 1940) is Professor Emeritus and was Acting Chair of Political Science (1989–1990 when the Chair, Jack L. Walker, was on leave) at the University of Michigan. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a Guggenheim fellow. He resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

With a new introduction, this influential and innovative book remains the best statement of the ways in which legislators reach decisions. The work contributes in critical ways This classic study of voting decisions in the . House of Representatives, based on extensive interviewing and observation, combines theory and substance, generalization and detailed description. John Wells Kingdon (born 1940) is Professor Emeritus and was Acting Chair of Political Science (1989-1990 when the Chair, Jack L. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A study of the process by which members of Congress arrive at roll call voting decisions.

University of Michigan Press, (c)1989. Download book Congressmen's voting decisions, John W. Kingdon.

Congressmen's Voting Decisions. Glenn R. Parker, "Congressmen's Voting Decisions. John W. Kingdon," The Journal of Politics 36, no. 4 (No. 1974): 1080-1082.

Citation View help for Citation. Congressmen’s Voting Decisions, 1969. Congressmen's Voting Decisions, 1969. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1973. University of Massachusetts.

com Product Description (ISBN 0472064010, Paperback). A study of the process by which members of Congress arrive at roll call voting decisions. Library descriptions. No library descriptions found. Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text.

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Kingdon attempts to explain why congressmen vote the way they do. He divides his explanation into two parts, (1) the role of various actors - constituents, fellow congressmen, party leaders, interest groups, etc. - on influencing the congressmen's voting decisions, and (2) more general aspects of decision making, i.e. information flow, the actual decision making process, the role of ideology and policy preference, etc.

In regards to the role of actor, Kingdon finds that fellow congressmen have the most influence on decision making followed closely by the constituency. Fellow congressmen are the source of lots of information and as such can simply the decision making process. First, congressmen will pick a fellow congressman who is an expert on a particular policy area, and is also ideologically similar to the congressman. Similarly, a congressman may side with a more senior member, as they tend to have more experience on issues. All of these illustrate that relying on fellow congressman can decrease information costs and make the decision making process more simplified.

Constituent influence plays a close second to fellow congressmen. The member is reliant on continued constituency support for reelection. However, the member also is influenced by the intensity of the wishes of the constituency. He is most likely to vote along with the wishes of the constituency the more intensely they hold their position. On issues that the constituency doesn't feel strongly, the member may vote against his district. Most of the time, however, the member votes with his or her district. They do so for four reasons. First, the congressman is recruited from the district. His views will not be so different. Second, the congressman will have to explain his voting decisions if they diverge from his constituents. Third, he receives a good deal of direct communication from the district regarding ideological direction, and he usually follows this direction. Lastly, and most importantly, electoral concerns drive compliance with constituent wishes.

Kingdon also discusses some actors who possess significantly less influence. He begins with party leadership and committee members. Kingdon contends that they have less influence than commonly thought. He contends that party voting is less a result of leadership and committee chairs, and more a result of the fact that the constituencies of the parties differ. The constituencies will support policies most similar to one party or another and the congressmen will vote accordingly.

Interest groups also have less power than commonly though. Congressmen may listen to interest groups to gain information, or procure assistance drafting legislation, but usually only if (a) the interest groups is closely tied with the constituency, (b) the interest group is ideologically similar to the congress may, or (c) the issue is highly salient.

The executive branch also has less power than some would contend. If the president is popular in the constituency, the congressman will grant him greater support than if is unpopular. However, if the policy preference of the president is significantly different from the constituency, the congressman will vote with the constituency. Furthermore, the sanctions incentives of the president are not seen - in general - as extremely beneficial, or terribly costly.

Kingdon does touch on the effects of divided government. Many scholars contend that divided government can lead to gridlock. Kingdon, however, illustrates some circumstance where cooperation may take hold; (1) when a program has a great deal of public support, (2) the president's party is able to garner enough bipartisan support. (See Jacobson and Kernel 1983; Fiorina 2002).

In regards to the media, Kingdon contends that influence is more indirect. First, the media can, in part, shape the agenda of issues that are discussed and debated in Congress. This can happen because the press will cover an issue that (a) draws the congressman's interest, (b) spikes constituent interest which in turn places pressure on the congressman, or (c) shapes the public discussion by covering a story with a particular slant (see Zaller 1992).
Aside from the influence of actors, Kingdon examines the flow of information, and the decision making processes of the congressmen. Congressmen are faced with many decisions, and little time to analyze them. As such, they rely on problemistic searching, that is, engaging in (an extended search for information only rarely, then only when confronted with some unusual problem" (240).

In general, however, Kingdon contends that congressman consistently rely on simplified information to make their decisions, particularly from fellow congressmen and the constituency. The information that they do use, must be (a) easily digestible, and (b) must consider the political and policy implications of a given decision. Meeting with fellow congressmen of similar persuasions and constituency representatives fit these two criteria. As such, these two sources of information are "gate keepers." Interest groups, administration, party leaders, etc. - if they seek influence - must go through these "gate keepers" and influence the congressman indirectly.

Kingdon contends that the influence of actors is not the only variable in congressional voting. We still must examine the process of decision making. He looks at the consensus mode of decision making and the preconsensus process. The consensus model of decision making essentially argues that all congressional decisions are based on one initial question: Is the decision controversial? If there is no controversy, the congressman votes with the wishes dominating the environment? This simplifies the amount of info needed, and the time necessary for deliberation. If there is controversy, he looks to see if the conflict affects his "personal field forces," i.e. constituents, party leadership, etc. If the decision does not affect his "personal field forces" he votes with the consensus, that is, the predominate opinion of the environment. If conflict is present in the "personal field forces" and there is a lack of consensus, the congressman must evaluate his own goals - reelection, his influence in Washington, and promotion of good public policy. The values of these goals must pass a "critical threshold of importance." If the goals are important enough, the congressman will vote accordingly. "If none of the goals is important enough to the congressman in a given decision to be relevant, he proceeds to follow trusted colleagues with the House," i.e. consensus (247). By consistently voting with the consensus, the congressman can avoid political trouble.