Full-Time, Part-Time, and Real Time: Explaining State Legislators' Perceptions of Time on the Job

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2006


One of the oldest and most distinctive characteristics of American political culture is its anti-government, anti-politician bias. One manifestation of this attitude in state government today is the effort to maintain part-time "citizen" legislatures, whether through term limits, low salaries, or session length restrictions. But, realistically, how part-time is the job of a state legislator? We discuss findings from a national survey of state legislators in which they report spending more time on the job than one might anticipate given the presumably part-time nature of many state legislatures. As expected, we find that legislators serving in bodies characterized as full-time, professional legislatures spend more time on the job than those in part-time institutions, but we also see significant variation across states in both groups. We also find considerable variation among individual legislators, which is related to factors such as holding a leadership position and a legislator's demographic characteristics. We also show how time on the job is allocated among specific components of representation.