PS: Political Science & Politics, Forthcoming
25 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2013 Last revised: 21 Apr 2013
Date Written: March 28, 2013
Many scholars argue that "retrospective voting" is a powerful information shortcut that offsets widespread voter ignorance. Even relatively ignorant voters, it is claimed, can punish incumbents for bad performance and reward them if things go well. But if voters' understanding of which officials are responsible for which issues is systematically biased, retrospective voting becomes an independent source of political failure rather than a cure for it. We designed and administered a new survey of the general public and political experts to test for such biases. Our analysis reveals frequent, large, robust biases in voter attributions of responsibility for a wide array of political actors and outcomes, with an overarching tendency for the public to overestimate influence, though there are also important examples of underestimation.
Keywords: Achen, Bartels, beliefs, budget, Congress, Cutler, economy, education, failure, Federal Reserve Board, federalism, government, ignorance, informed, lay versus expert opinion, peace, policies, politics, polls, president, prosperity, responsibility attribution, results, safety, success, voter bias
JEL Classification: D72, F51, H11, H73, H77, I28, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Caplan, Bryan and Crampton, Eric and Grove, Wayne A. and Somin, Ilya, Systematically Biased Beliefs About Political Influence: Evidence from the Perceptions of Political Influence on Policy Outcomes Survey (March 28, 2013). PS: Political Science & Politics, Forthcoming; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 13-24; GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 13-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2241024