Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Bias in Perceptions of Public Opinion Among American Political Elites

Forthcoming in American Political Science Review

98 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2017 Last revised: 3 Oct 2017

David E. Broockman

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Christopher Skovron

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, College of Literature, Science & the Arts, Department of Political Science, Students ; Northwestern University - Institute for Policy Research

Date Written: October 3, 2017

Abstract

The conservative asymmetry of elite polarization represents a significant puzzle. We argue that politicians can maintain systematic misperceptions of constituency opinion that may contribute to breakdowns in dyadic representation. We demonstrate this argument with original surveys of 3,765 politicians' perceptions of constituency opinion on nine issues. In 2012 and 2014, state legislative politicians from both parties dramatically overestimated their constituents' support for conservative policies on these issues, a pattern consistent across methods, districts, and states. Republicans drive much of this overestimation. Exploiting responses from politicians in the same district, we confirm these partisan differences within individual districts. Further evidence suggests that this overestimation may arise due to biases in who contacts politicians, as in recent years Republican citizens have been especially likely to contact legislators, especially fellow Republicans. Our findings suggest a novel force can operate in elections and in legislatures: politicians can systematically misperceive what their constituents want.

Suggested Citation

Broockman, David E. and Skovron, Christopher, Bias in Perceptions of Public Opinion Among American Political Elites (October 3, 2017). Forthcoming in American Political Science Review. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2930362

David Broockman (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Christopher Skovron

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, College of Literature, Science & the Arts, Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Northwestern University - Institute for Policy Research ( email )

2003 Sheridan Rd
Evanston, IL 60208-2600
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
770
Rank
26,157
Abstract Views
5,136