The Roles of District and National Opinion in 2010 Congressional Campaign Agendas


A primary goal of congressional elections is to create a link between constituent opinion and representative behavior. Explanations of congressional campaign agendas, however, have focused on national measures of issue salience and ownership, ignoring opinion within districts. Moreover, no study has systematically assessed the relative influence of issue salience and ownership. This article seeks to address these gaps using several public opinion surveys and a content analysis of 2010 House campaign websites. The analysis demonstrates significant across-district variation in citizens’ priorities and preferences, yet finds no discernible relationship between district opinion and campaign issue agendas. In contrast, the analysis suggests that campaign issue emphasis is positively associated with the issue’s national salience and party ownership, but salience appears to be the stronger predictor. Together, the results suggest that the 2010 candidates used their campaign issue agendas to forge a national strategy, rather than emphasize identification with their constituents.

American Politics Research