The article by Montgomery and Nyhan complements previous studies on the legislative behavior of government officials. The research sources from the observation that scholars of contemporary political science have consistently treated legislators as individuals or party members, thereby neglecting the effect of staff on the former’s legislative behavior.
The research hence acknowledges staff as alternative advisors in a political environment whose normal time pressures and culture of party loyalty make it inconvenient for legislators to seek qualified counsel from experts. The study demonstrates, through empirical research of “newly available administrative records on staff employment in the contemporary era,” the significant role of the informal staff network in the legislature. According to Montgomery and Nyhan, staff influence the behavior of politicians by transmitting learned expertise and experiences from to aid the development of policy positions.
The study delineates two hypotheses; firstly, that that the relative legislative effectiveness of offices associated with high-level staff is similar and secondly, that such agencies are likely to exhibit identical voting patterns. Montgomery and Nyhan operationalize these concepts by estimating the effect of the personal staff of the members of the House of Representatives who served in between the 103rd
and 111th Congresses. The target population comprises the highly mobile senior and policy team who worked for more than one member. The researchers further adopt the spatial autoregressive model to estimate the effect of informal staff networks on the legislative effectiveness of the members. The variables include legislative effectiveness scores (LES), the extent of the association between staff ties and the positions that members of the House of Representative take, and the voting patterns of such members.
The research creditably succeeds in defining the hypotheses, identifying variables, enforcing controls, specifying the target population, and applying the spatial autoregressive. However, the study relies overtly on quantitative variables. The shortcoming limits the scope of review which may otherwise reveal more insightful information if the researchers incorporate dichotomous variables. For instance, it would make sense to ask staff whether they believe they highly influential. An analysis of the distribution of the “yes” or “no” answers would indeed validate the research findings.
Critical Response to Article Review Part II
At face value, operationalization using the national survey would be the most ideal given the context of the study in the discussion. Firstly, the national poll enables the collection of data from people of diverse groups in the populous nation that is the United States. Whatever the sampling technique, researchers are guaranteed that the sample data would be representative enough of the parent population. The research findings hence gain validity since its conclusions would be most insightful and relevant in national policy planning. The variables are also appropriate. For example, the collection of quantitative data regarding the intra-group perceptions of racial prejudice suffice to examine diverse cultural attitudes on the subject matter.
On the other hand, national surveys are a method of data collection bears adverse limitations that may compromise its dependability the data analysis stage. For example, respondents may not necessarily provide conscientious responses as a result of failing to think through questionnaires. When the researcher deduces quantifiable statistics such as the various percentages of people supporting specific public policies, they may indeed consult unreliable information if a significant number of respondents respond inappropriately. National surveys may also prove inaccessible for respondents with visual, hearing, or literacy challenges that may inhibit their ability to participate in research.
Montgomery, Jacob M., and Brendan Nyhan. “The Effects of Congressional Staff Networks in the US House of Representatives.” The Journal of Politics 79.3 (2017): 745–761. doi: 10.1086/690301