Legislative Representation in a Multilevel System: The Case of Brazil


How well do legislative elites represent voters? Here, we examine voter-elite congruence in the multi-level context of Brazil’s federal system. We extend recent work on congruence by including an unprecedented amount of elite survey data from 12 Brazilian states into a unified study of voter-elite relationships. We exploit the fact that these surveys include questions asking respondents to place major Brazilian parties and figures and themselves in a left-right ideological scale to estimate deputies and respondents’ ideal points in a common scale using Bayesian Aldrich-McKelvey scaling. We show that even in the fragmented Brazilian party system, there is a high degree of overall congruence between voters and politicians’ ideological positions, particularly with regard to state deputies. However, we find that this is less clearly the case between the major parties and their supporters, with the major right-wing parties tend deviating substantially from their voters. In our dyadic analysis, which allows us to consider the characteristics of specific deputies and voters, we find that higher educated and especially higher income deputies are among those least congruent with voters.