Ten Miles Square


April 23, 2013 11:50 AM Why Do GOP Politicians Think Their Constituents Are More Conservative Than They Really Are?

By Andrew Gelman

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


  • Tired Liberal on April 23, 2013 1:22 PM:

    The most obvious answer is that the real constituency of GOP politicians is the pool of high-rolling conservative donors who fund their campaigns.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 23, 2013 4:08 PM:

    Why do GOP politicians think their constituents are more conservative then they really are, you ask?

    Because nobody--Right or Left--is trying to refute them in open public on the point. All the so-called "moderate" Republicans have apparently retreated into the nether regions of somewhere and are about as scarce as a two dollar bill.

  • toowearyforoutrage on April 23, 2013 10:09 PM:

    DO they believe this?

    I put it to you that they pretend it's so to more closely identify with the primary voters that are so vital for their re-election.

    Hopelessly tortured gerrymandered districts mean that winning the primary is the equivalent of winning the election.

    Even if the majority of a Republican district is pro-choice does a Congressman DARE breathe the truth? To speak the truth would be to potentially be mistaken for supporting that view.

    No. I think it plausible that a healthy number of GOP congressmen say whatever their primary voters want to hear.