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Legislative Style, William Bernhard and Tracy Sulkin

Reviewed by James M. Curry

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In this impressive book, William Bernhard and Tracy Sulkin resuscitate the study of “Hill styles,” producing the most comprehensive study to date of how members of Congress approach their jobs and how differences in their legislative styles influence congressional politics. Drawing on a tremendous volume of more than 20 years of data and employing “an inductive, data-centered approach, to group legislators by their behavior” (p. 206), Bernhard and Sulkin take us light-years beyond the old show horse/work horse dichotomy, identifying five distinct legislative styles. These styles reflect different approaches to achieving the various goals held by our legislators—including reelection, policymaking, and power—and all five have notable effects on members’ careers.

Considering these stylistic approaches, Bernhard and Sulkin push scholars to think past typical determinants of legislative behavior, such as party and ideology. The styles they identify are impressively rich and nuanced and reflect differences in patterns of behavior that are intuitive and will be familiar to any close observer of Congress. They are district advocates—legislators who are focused on their districts and cultivating constituent support; policy specialists—wonky, policy-focused legislators who allocate their time to deve

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