Home Field Advantage
Roots, Reelection, and Representation in the Modern Congress
Investigates the effects of legislators’ local roots on congressional campaigns, elections, and representation
Although partisan polarization gets much of the attention in political science scholarship about Congress, members of Congress represent diverse communities around the country. Home Field Advantage demonstrates the importance of this understudied element of American congressional elections and representation in the modern era: the local, place-based roots that members of Congress have in their home districts. Charles Hunt argues that legislators’ local roots in their district have a significant and independent impact on their campaigns, election outcomes, and more broadly on the relationship between members of the U.S. House of Representatives and their constituents. Drawing on original data, his research reveals that there is considerable variation in election outcomes, performance relative to presidential candidates, campaign spending, and constituent communication styles that are not fully explained by partisanship, incumbency, or other well-established theories of American political representation. Rather, many of these differences are the result of the depth of a legislator’s local roots in their district that predate their time in Congress. Hunt lays out a detailed “Theory of Local Roots” and their influence in congressional representation, demonstrating this influence empirically using multiple original measures of local roots over a full cross- section of legislators and a significant period of time.
Praise / Awards
“Even in an era in which national party politics influences every district and state around the country, Hunt’s analysis shows us that politicians’ local roots still matter. The impressive array of data in this book shows that legislators with more personal ties to their districts offer advantages to themselves and their constituents.”
—Barry C. Burden, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Charles Hunt’s Home Field Advantage is a must-read for anyone interested in elections, representation, or political leadership. Hunt demonstrates U.S. House members’ high reelection rates do not result entirely from favorably drawn districts, large war chests, or other incumbency advantages. Personal roots in a district also matter. Members born or educated in a district, or who possess other local ties, have advantages in connecting with voters. These members typically outperform colleagues with weaker district ties in elections—even when spending less money. Hunt further shows that local roots remain important in an era of increasingly nationalized politics.”
—Paul Herrnson, University of Connecticut
“In this beautifully crafted study, Hunt corrects the conventional wisdom that congressional representation today is all about party and national politics. He shows that members’ personal roots in their local constituencies systematically affect their representational style and the breadth of their electoral support. Locally rooted members are able to forge trust relationships that partially transcend even today’s deep partisan divides.”
—Frances Lee, Princeton University
“Home Field Advantage is a worthy heir to Richard Fenno's Home Style and Bill Bianco's Trust. In the tradition of studying Congress, Charles Hunt has presented an engaging and rigorous study of what motivates members of Congress to effectively represent their constituents, how they do it, and how to measure their success or failure.”
—Wendy J. Schiller-Kalunian, Brown University
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