Exploring spatial and ideological variation in town hall meetings across the United States

Authors: Elizabeth Ann Barrett*, University of West Florida, John Derek Morgan, University of West Florida, Jocelyn Evans, University of West Florida, Haris Alibašić, University of West Florida
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: town halls, political ethics, House of Representatives, 114th Congress, regression analysis.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


According to media accounts, members of Congress have retreated from the public sphere in recent years. They are holding fewer town halls to avoid the spectacle of organized protest. In this paper, we use regression analysis to predict the number of town halls held by members of Congress as well as the location of these town halls based on member-level, territory-level, and population-level indicators. Because town hall meetings are likely to be geographically clustered, we plan to control spatial autocorrelation utilizing spatial autoregressive methods. Using data provided by Legistorm on advertised public meetings held by members of Congress during the 114th Congress, we hypothesize that member partisanship and political demography of the district will be significantly associated with the member’s choice to have a public meeting, will influence the type of meeting the member holds and will influence where in the district the member chooses to hold it. The member-level indicators include seniority, party affiliation, electoral vulnerability, and ideology score. The territory-level indicators include urban cluster, population density, distance from the urban edge, and other community characteristics. The population-level indicators include electoral and census data on age, income, education, ethnic diversity, and political culture.

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