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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Professor Nick Vivyan

Vivyan, Nick & Wagner, Markus (2016). House or Home? Constituent preferences over legislator effort allocation. European Journal of Political Research 55(1): 81-99.

Author(s) from Durham


In many political systems legislators face a fundamental trade-off between allocating effort to constituency service and to national policy-making activities, respectively. How do voters want their elected representatives to solve this trade-off? This article provides new insights into this question by developing a conjoint analysis approach to estimating voters’ preferences over their legislator's effort allocation. This approach is applied in Britain, where it is found that effort allocation has a significant effect on voter evaluations of legislators, even in a political system where other legislator attributes – in particular, party affiliation – might be expected to predominate. This effect is nonlinear, with voters generally preferring a moderate balance of constituency and national policy work. Preferences over legislator effort allocation are not well-explained by self-interest or more broadly by instrumental considerations. They are, however, associated with voters’ local-cosmopolitan orientation, suggesting that heuristic reasoning based on underlying social dispositions may be more important in determining preferences over representative activities.