chapter  9
“Alignment of objectives” between parties and their electors: the role of personal issue salience in political representation
ByNATHALIE GIGER, ZOE LEFKOFRIDI
Pages 17

A core component of the Selection Model of Political Representation is the “alignment of objectives” between represented and their representatives (Mansbridge 2009; see also Chapter 2). In this model, “most of the congruence between the principals’ desires and the agent’s behaviour is accomplished by the voters selecting a representative who … already has policy goals much like the constituents” (Mansbridge 2009: 370). In other words, alignment is a prerequisite for selection and it provides a guarantee for good representation: the probability that the representative will “act for” (Pitkin 1967) the represented in Parliament increases, while the probability that he or she will shirk decreases. Hence, its existence reduces the need for monitoring and sanctioning (see Chapter 2). In the present chapter, we build on these ideas and put forward a three-fold

argument about the role played by issue salience in achieving the desired alignment. More specifically, based on a synthesis of normative and positive theoretical as well as methodological claims, we aspire at a finer conceptualization and measurement of the desired alignment. We thus revisit conventional understandings of policy congruence2 and argue in favour of incorporating salience into models of representation. Moreover, we contend that salience should be conceived and measured at the citizens’ level and discuss the merits of personal issue salience. Contrary to previous works that modelled salience as a macro-level variable, we explain why salience as an individual-level variable can provide a sound micro-foundation of the causal link between salience, proximity and the quality of representation. We formulate specific hypotheses, which we test against data from the Swiss National Election Study (Lutz 2008). Albeit tentative, our findings have important implications for the conceptual and methodological debates on congruence between representatives and represented. The remainder of this chapter is structured as follows: first, we argue why

salience should be incorporated in the conceptualization and measurement of the “alignment of objectives” between representatives and their electors and formulate our research hypotheses. Second, we elaborate on the data sources

we use, as well as on our operationalization of personal salience and our novel measurement of congruence. Third, we present our empirical results. In the fourth and concluding section, we discuss our findings and highlight their implications for contemporary debates on representation and policy congruence, while acknowledging the limitations of the present study and suggesting avenues for future research.