Recent research on representational linkages between legislators and their constituents challenges the long-standing assumption that constituency preferences are exogenous to the linkage process, but does not clearly suggest the conditions under which a specific pattern of linkage should exist. Drawing on a diverse collection of prior research, we argue that issues that function as main lines of cleavage between competing political parties should be characterized by reciprocal linkages between mass and elite preferences, while highly complex issues on which party distinctions are unclear should be characterized by no linkages between mass and elite. For salient issues on which the public fails to distinguish party positions, we expect the traditional one-way linkage from mass to elite. We test our theoretical expectations with a unique version of the data from the 1958 American Representation Study-and with explicit predictions for which policy issues addressed in that study should demonstrate which particular pattern of mass-elite linkage. The empirical results, derived from LISREL analyses for three policy areas, are entirely in accord with our predictions.
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