Holding agencies accountable: Exploring the effect of oversight on citizens' approval of members of Congress

Susan M. Miller, Alexander I. Ruder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We seek to understand the incentives facing Congress members to hold executive agencies accountable. Specifically, we explore whether Congress members are rewarded for taking politically costly oversight actions. We evaluate the effect of oversight activities on citizens' evaluations of Congress members, taking into account the member's partisanship, the citizen's partisanship and agency ideology. Using a survey experiment, we find evidence that citizens' evaluations of members are affected by the members' oversight activity, with both copartisan and cross-party members rewarded for oversight efforts. Politically costly actions against ally agencies, however, do not appear to be rewarded to a greater extent by copartisans. These results provide insight into the way in which citizens interpret oversight activities by Congress members, suggesting that while good governance actions hold value for citizens, costly oversight actions aimed at ally agencies are not rewarded by copartisan citizens more than politically expedient oversight actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-693
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • accountability
  • congressional approval
  • Keywords: congressional oversight
  • public opinion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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