Out-of-District Contributors and Representation in the US House of Representatives

Brandice Canes-Wrone, Princeton University
Kenneth Miller, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Research suggests United States (US) House members are increasingly reliant on out-of-district individuals for fundraising. Yet we lack evidence on how such donations might affect representatives’ policy decisions, and existing work suggests contributions from organized political action committees (PACs) do not influence roll call behavior. This paper examines whether House members’ roll call voting is responsive to individual donors, and how any such responsiveness relates to out-of district donations and district ideology. Three main findings emerge. First, members are responsive to the policy preferences of the national donor base of their party. Second, this responsiveness is positively associated with the ideological favorability of the district; in fact, this finding holds even when the shift in favorability is exogenously induced by redistricting. Third, the higher the percentage of out-of-district contributions a member has received, the greater is their responsiveness to the national donor base.