Why do constituents sometimes defer to their representative's judgment, rewarding her for acting as she thinks best, even when she ignores their demands? By making decisions about trust, constituents determine whether their representative is rewarded for implementing their demands or for using her judgment. These decisions shape legislator behavior and, through behavior, policy outcomes. Therefore, any attempt to explain or evaluate representative institutions such as the modern Congress requires an answer to a simple question: When do constituents trust their representative, and what is the basis of that trust?
This book is the first systematic analysis of constituent trust. It assumes that elected officials and ordinary citizens are rational actors. However, the book moves beyond the standard rational choice framework in three ways. It avoids narrow, unrealistic assumptions about motivations and information. It shows that many kinds of behavior not usually thought of as rational choices, such as a voter's desire to be represented by "someone like them," are the product of a systematic, predictable calculus—a calculus aimed at securing favorable policy outcomes. Finally, the book uses interviews with ninety-three members of the U.S. House of Representatives to test its predictions about trust.
Praise / Awards
". . . Bianco combines in one book the rewards of participant observation and the rigor of a formal model. For those who have wondered when a formal modeler might actually spend some time on the Hill, Trust is a welcome sight. For formal modelers wondering how to anchor their models in political reality, Trust provides a worthy guide. . . . The book would be appropriate for graduate seminars on Congress or formal modeling. In some instances, it could also be used in advanced undergraduate courses."
—Congress & the Presidency
". . . an excellent book, offering both fundamental insights into the how and why of real political activity, and a lucid and appealing style of writing. The book will serve well as either a text in undergraduate Congress classes or graduate classes on institutions. . . . . Bianco's accomplishment, and it is a significant one, is to broaden the definition of leeway to account much better than any explanation I have seen for real world political forces."
—Michael C. Munger, Public Choice
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Part 1. A Theory of Trust
Chapter 2. Trust, Democratic Theory, and the Electoral Connection 11
Chapter 3. Assumptions about Decisions and Beliefs 39
Chapter 4. The Leeway Hypothesis 63
Part 2: The Theory Applied
Introduction to Part 2 95
Chapter 5. Raising Pay without Losing Office: The Ethics Act of 1989 99
Chapter 6. Analyzing the Inexplicable: The Repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act 123
Chapter 7. Conclusions 147
Appendix 1. The Evaluation Game 171
Appendix 2. The Data 185
Appendix 3. Fiduciary Behavior under Term Limits 198
Author Index 209
Subject Index 213