A Monkey Cage reader writes:
Prompted by the recent Internet passion over CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), many people are urging me to contact my Senators either by phone or email to express my opinions. Does constituents contacting elected officials affect their voting behavior? A summary of the political science literature regarding constituents contacting their elected officials would be interesting and timely.
If we had such data, would we find a relationship? It is hard to know, and would be hard to establish any causal link between voter-initiated contact and legislators’ votes. This doesn’t mean that such contact is unimportant. Doug Arnold’s work suggests that legislators worry about “latent publics”—that is, groups of voters who might come to care about an issue. Letters, email campaigns, etc. could factor into legislators’ views about latent publics by signaling that their might be a broader group of constituents who would object if legislators voted a particular way.