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Fenno: U.S. House members in their constituencies

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Fenno. 1977. U.S. House members in their constituencies: An exploration. APSR 71:883-917.

In Brief

The traditional debate about legislators was whether members of Congress (MCs) are Burkean "trustees" (who make independent decisions) or "delegates" (who simply vote as their constituency wants). (See Weisberg et al 1999 for more on this debate.) But Fenno advocates a different view, one based on the MC's perspective. MC's see four nested constituencies; starting from the largest, these are the geographic, reelection, primary, and personal constituences.

Fenno develops these themes in his later book, Home Style (1978).

Home Style

According to Fenno, MCs develop a "home style," a way of presenting themselves to their districts so that constituents believe "I am one of you." He also argues that a district's homo/heterogeneity might matter, though later studies have shown it does not.

Home style is about an MC's "presentation of self." This takes a few different forms:

  • A "person-to-person" style.
  • An "issue-oriented" style.

The MCs that visit their districts most frequently are those with less seniority and those whose districts are closer to DC.