Use of 'Dear Colleague' Letters in the US House of Representatives: A Study of Internal Communications

  • Straus J
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‘Dear colleague’ letters – formal, written, member-to-member correspondence – provide a unique window into internal communications in the US House of Representatives. In general, studies of congressional political communications tend to focus on external messaging by members (candidates) to their constituents (voters) through a focus on electoral or constituent communication. Yet these studies may or may not tell us why members choose to engage in internal communication. To address this gap, this paper draws on the literature and presents new hypotheses about factors that increase a member's likelihood of using dear colleague letters. Using House dear colleague letter data from the first session of the 111th Congress (2009), a negative binomial regression tests the importance of seniority, electoral vulnerability, leadership status, and majority party status for dear colleague letter senders. The analysis demonstrates that rank-and-file majority party members who are electorally ‘safe’ are more likely to ...

Author-supplied keywords

  • House of Representatives
  • co-sponsorship
  • communications
  • party politics

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  • Jacob R. Straus

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