The Project

Representation is a central theme in Political Science. Despite this, we know remarkably little about what representation actually consists of. In this project, we seek to fill this gap in our practical understanding of representation by exploring the process of representation in four parliamentary democracies: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. In particular, we have three research objectives.

  1. Identify dominant themes in how MPs both think about and perform their tasks as representatives; i.e. determine these MPs’ representational styles.
  2. Determine the frequency with which MPs in parliamentary democracies adopt these different representational styles.
  3. Determine why MPs adopt the representational styles they do.

We propose to reach these objectives through a unique three-stage multi-method approach.

First, we will observe MPs while going about their representational duties both in their geographic constituencies and in their legislative offices. While political scientists have theorized about what representation should consist of, they have much less often descended into the trenches to observe how representatives actually go about their trade. Indeed, there are virtually no studies of representation through observation in parliamentary democracies. This first stage of research will allow us to inductively develop different categories of representational style.

Second, we will interview a greater number of MPs in these democracies in order to both test the wider applicability of the styles noted during observation, as well as to refine the categories developed.

Finally, we will explore both the incidence and causes of these different representational styles amongst MPs by deploying a survey of all MPs in these four states. The result will be a comprehensive account of MPs’ representational styles that exploits several different methodologies to produce unique insights into the practice of representation in parliamentary democracies.