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Measuring Representation: Perils of the Correlation Coefficient

Christopher H. Achen
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 21, No. 4 (Nov., 1977), pp. 805-815
DOI: 10.2307/2110737
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110737
Page Count: 11
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Measuring Representation: Perils of the Correlation Coefficient
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Abstract

Most empirical research on representation has used correlational measures. The larger the correlation between representatives' and constituents' views, the stronger the bonds between them are thought to be. Unfortunately, correlations incorporate not only the strength of a relationship, but also the diversity of the sampled constituencies. When constituencies are very different from each other on an issue dimension, large correlations will result even when voters are not particularly sensitive to that dimension. Large correlations can occur when representatives are distant from their constituents; small correlations can happen when they are near. Correlations should be abandoned in the study of representation.

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