Are Political Representatives More Risk-Loving than the Electorate? Evidence from German Federal and State Parliaments

7 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2018

See all articles by Christian von Scheve

Christian von Scheve

Free University of Berlin (FUB)

Moritz Hess

Technical University of Dortmund

Jürgen Schupp

RatSWD

Aiko Wagner

WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Gert Wagner

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Date Written: May 2018

Abstract

Political representatives frequently make decisions with far-reaching implications for citizens and societies. Most of these decisions are choices in situations in which the probabilities of gains and losses are hard to estimate. Although decision-making is crucial to politics, existing research has hardly ever addressed the political representation of traits that notably influence decision-making. One such trait is risk propensity; that is, an individual’s willingness to take risk. Using a unique dataset consisting of representative samples of the German Federal Parliament, four German State Parliaments, and the general German population, the present study investigates the degree to which political representatives’ risk propensity resembles their constituents’ appetite for risk. Not only descriptive results but even after using matching techniques and controlling for several potentially confounding variables, the study shows that political representatives are significantly more risk loving than the average citizen across several domains of risk taking. The implications of this finding are twofold. First, it points at a representation gap suggesting that politicians tend towards riskier choices than their voters, which not only affects politicians themselves but the entire polity. Second, it suggests a useful ‘division of labor’ according to which risk-loving politicians are prepared to take risks in exceptional situations, which their constituents would eschew.

Suggested Citation

Scheve, Christian von and Hess, Moritz and Schupp, Jürgen and Wagner, Aiko and Wagner, Gert, Are Political Representatives More Risk-Loving than the Electorate? Evidence from German Federal and State Parliaments (May 2018). Palgrave Communications, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 60-60, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3188057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/s41599-018-0112-x

Christian von Scheve (Contact Author)

Free University of Berlin (FUB) ( email )

Van't-Hoff-Str. 8
Berlin, Berlin 14195
Germany

Moritz Hess

Technical University of Dortmund

Emil-Figge-Straße 50
Dortmund, 44227
Germany

Jürgen Schupp

RatSWD

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, DE Berlin 10117
Germany

Aiko Wagner

WZB Berlin Social Science Center ( email )

Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin, 10785
Germany

Gert Wagner

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development ( email )

Lentzeallee 94
D-14195 Berlin
Germany

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