Why Do GOP Politicians Think Their Constituents Are More Conservative Than They Really Are?

Jeremy Fox points us to a paper by David Broockman and Christopher Skovron, who look at legislators’s perceptions of their constituents and compare to estimates of the the actual issue attitudes of people living in their districts. Broockman and Christopher Skovron find,

There is a striking conservative bias in politicians’ perceptions, particularly among conservatives: conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by over 20 percentage points, while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points. A follow-up survey demonstrates that politicians appear to learn nothing from democratic campaigns or elections that leads them to correct these shortcomings.

They conclude:

These findings suggest a substantial conserva- tive bias in American political representation and bleak prospects for constituency control of politicians when voters’ collective preferences are less than unambiguous.

I have not read the paper in detail, but I was happy to see that they have cool graphs and they use Mister P. So I like that.

[Crossed-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.