Models of representation

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Models of representation refer to ways in which elected officials behave in representative democracies. There are three main types: delegate, trustee, and politico.

Delegate Model[edit]

A delegate is someone who is teeter to represent and convey the views of others. The Delegate Model of representation suggests that representatives have little or no capacity to exercise their own judgement or preferences. They are merely elected to be the mouthpiece of their constituency and act only the way their constituents would want them to, regardless of their own opinion.

Joseph Tussman, stated "The essence of representation is the delegation or granting of authority. To authorize a representative is to grant another the right to act for oneself. Within the limits of the grant of authority one is, in fact, committing himself in advance to the decision or will of another".[1]

Trustee Model[edit]

A trustee is someone who acts on behalf of others, using their knowledge, experience and intelligence upon a certain field. The Trustee Model contrasts with the Delegate Model as this time constituents 'entrust' their elected representatives to represent them however they see fit, they are given autonomy to vote and behave in the best way for their constituents.

Edmund Burke, who formulated the model stated in a speech "You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament... your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your own opinion".[2]

Politico Model[edit]

The Politico Model came about when theorists recognised that representatives rarely consistently act as just a delegate or just a trustee when representing their constituents. It is a hybrid of the two models discussed above and involves representatives acting as delegates and trustees, depending on the issue.

Other Models[edit]

The Mandate Model views representatives as less independent actors. This came about after the emergence of modern political parties; now constituents rarely vote for a representative based on their personal qualities but more broadly, they vote for their party to be elected into government. A mandate is an order or instruction from a superior body therefore this model suggests representatives follow the party line and must carry out policies outlined during election campaigns.[3]

The Resemblance Model is less concerned about the way representatives are selected and more concerned whether they resemble the group they claim to represent. It is similar to descriptive representation, they argue that to represent a group of people such as the working class or women to its full potential you must be part of that social group yourself. Therefore, only people who have shared experiences and interests can fully identify with particular issues.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tussman, Joseph (1947). The Political Theory of Thomas Hobbes. Unpul. diss. p. 117.
  2. ^ "Representation: Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol". Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  3. ^ Heywood, Andrew (2013). Politics. New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN. p. 200.
  4. ^ Heywood, Andrew (2013). Politics. New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLON. pp. 201–202.