What Shapes Politicians’ Perceptions?

Healthcare Preception

Masket ponders the finding that both liberal and conservative state legislative candidates overestimate the conservatism of their constituents:

Why might politicians think voters are more conservative than they actually are? It could be that their views are shaped by political media reports. State legislative candidates rarely have great polling operations, and if they perceive public opinion to fall halfway between whatever Fox says and whatever CNN says, they’re going to come in somewhere to the right of the population median. Politicians may also be estimating that those who will actually turn out to vote will be somewhat more conservative than their constituents as a whole. This could also be an artifact of these two issues at a particular time in our history: public attitudes on same sex marriage have moved leftward rapidly in recent years, and a politician could be forgiven for being a bit behind the times on this. And there is a broad (and correct) perception that Democrats nationally were punished at the polls in 2010 for their stance on health reform.

(Above: another chart from the Broockman and Skovron working paper (pdf))