Political Science ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-17-2018


This project asks: whom do representatives seek to represent and how do they do it? Specifically, I seek to understand how marginalized state legislators define the concept of “constituency” and the implications for their legislative behavior. I argue that marginalization affects legislators through two avenues: socially through their identity, and institutionally through the proportion their identity group holds in the state legislature. I argue that when legislators are marginalized their awareness of identity and identity-based issue needs are prioritized and they will come to define group members as a salient identity constituency. Furthermore, they will seek to represent this salient identity constituency through legislative behavior because of a moral obligation to group members. Such a perception of constituency has implications for their hill and home style legislative behavior and affects their legislative preferences as well as their constituency activities at “home”. I argue that their conceptualization of home extends beyond traditional definitions that tend to be restricted to the geographical boundaries of the viii district, to include women and minorities more broadly. I also show that representing both their district and a salient identity constituency results in additive pressures on their legislative activities. I examine the implications of the salient identity constituency theory through their legislative activities with constituents, their workload, and their committee memberships. Methodologically, I employ a multi-methods approach using three different data sources. The data come from face-to-face interviews with state legislators, an original survey of state legislators, and an aggregate data set of state legislators’ committee assignments from 14 states for three time points.

Degree Name

Political Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Political Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Atkeson, Lonna

Second Committee Member

Sierra, Christine

Third Committee Member

Rocca, Michael

Fourth Committee Member

Maestas, Cherie

Project Sponsors

University of New Mexico Graduate and Professional Student Association, University of New Mexico Department of Political Science




legislative politics, race and ethnicity politics, representation, women and politics, US state legislatures

Document Type