Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Systematically Biased Beliefs about Political Influence: Evidence from the Perceptions of Political Influence on Policy Outcomes Survey

  • Bryan Caplan (a1), Eric Crampton (a2), Wayne A. Grove (a3) and Ilya Somin (a4)
Abstract

Many scholars argue that retrospective voting is a powerful information shortcut that offsets widespread voter ignorance. Even deeply ignorant voters, it is claimed, can effectively punish incumbents for bad performance and reward them if things go well. But if voters' understanding of which officials are responsible for which outcomes is systematically biased, retrospective voting becomes an independent source of political failure rather than a cure for it. We design and administer 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 variety of political actors and outcomes with a tendency for the public to overestimate influence, although important examples of underestimation also exist.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Achen, Christopher, and Bartels, Larry. 2004. “Musical Chairs: Pocketbook Voting and the Limits of Democratic Accountability.” Working Paper, Princeton University.
Achen, Christopher, and Bartels, Larry. 2008. “Myopic Retrospection and Party Realignment in the Great Depression.” Working Paper, Princeton University.
Albouy, David. 2011. “Do Voters Affect or Elect Policies? A New Perspective, with Evidence from the U.S. Senate.” Electoral Studies 30 (1): 162–73.
Althaus, Scott. 2003. Collective Preferences in Democratic Politics: Opinion Surveys and the Will of the People. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Anderson, Cameron. 2006. “Economic Voting and Multilevel Governance: A Comparative Individual-Level Analysis.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (2): 449–63.
Arceneaux, Kevin. 2006. “The Federal Face of Voting: Are Elected Officials Held Accountable for the Functions Relevant to Their Office?Political Psychology 27 (5): 731–54.
Arceneaux, Kevin, and Stein, Robert. 2006. “Who is Held Responsible When Disaster Strikes? The Attribution of Responsibility for a Natural Disaster in an Urban Election.” Journal of Urban Affairs 28 (1): 4353.
Atkeson, Lonna, and Partin, Randall. 1995. “Economic and Referendum Voting: A Comparison of Gubernatorial and Senatorial Elections.” American Political Science Review 89(1): 99107.
Bartels, Larry. 2002. “Beyond the Running Tally: Partisan Bias in Political Perceptions.” Political Behavior 24 (2): 117–50.
Bartels, Larry. 2010. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Caplan, Bryan. 2007. The Myth of the Rational Voter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Cutler, Fred. 2004. “Government Responsibility and Electoral Accountability in Federations.” Publius 34 (2): 1938.
Cutler, Fred. 2008. “Whodunnit? Voters and Responsibility in Canadian Federalism.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 41 (3): 627–54.
Dahl, Gordon, and Ransom, Michael. 1999. “Does Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit?American Economic Review 89 (4): 703–27.
Dahl, Robert. 2002. How Democratic Is the American Constitution? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Delli Carpini, Michael X., and Keeter, Scott. 1996. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dixit, Avinash. 2002. “Incentives and Organizations in the Public Sector: An Interpretive Review.” Journal of Human Resources 37 (4): 626727.
Fiorina, Morris. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American Presidential Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Gasper, John, and Reeves, Andrew. 2011. “Make It Rain? Retrospection and the Attentive Electorate in the Context of Natural Disasters.” American Journal of Political Science 55 (2): 340–55.
Gibbons, Robert. 2005. “Incentives Between Firms (and Within).” Management Science 51 (1): 217.
Hansen, Susan. 1999. “‘Life Is Not Fair’: Governors' Job Performance Ratings and State Economies.” Political Research Quarterly 52 (1): 167–88.
Healy, Andrew, and Malhotra, Neil. 2009. “Myopic Voters and Natural Disaster Policy.” American Political Science Review 103 (3): 387406
Healy, Andrew, Malhotra, Neil, and Mo, Cecilia Hyunjung. 2010. “Irrelevant Events Affect Voters' Evaluations of Government Performance.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (29): 12804–09.
Kahneman, Daniel. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University. 1995. “National Survey of Public Knowledge of Welfare Reform and the Federal Budget.” January 12, #1001.
Kraus, Nancy, Malmfors, Torbjörn, and Slovic, Paul. 1992. “Intuitive Toxicology: Expert and Lay Judgments of Chemical Risks.” Risk Analysis 12 (2): 215–32.
Kuran, Timur, and Sunstein, Cass. 1999. “Availability Cascades and Risk Regulation.” Stanford Law Review 51 (4): 683768.
Leigh, Andrew. 2009. “Does the World Economy Swing National Elections?Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics 71 (2): 163–81.
Lewis-Beck, Michael. 1997. “Who's the Chef? Economic Voting under a Dual Executive.” European Journal of Political Research 31: 315–5.
Lewis-Beck, Michael, and Stegmaier, Mary. 2000. “Economic Determinants of Electoral Outcomes.” Annual Review of Political Science 3: 183219.
Leyden, Kevin, and Borrelli, Stephen. 1995. “The Effect of State Economic Conditions on Gubernatorial Elections: Does Unified Government Make a Difference?Political Research Quarterly 48 (2): 275–90.
Lichter, S. Robert, and Rothman, Stanley. 1999. Environmental Cancer—A Political Disease? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Marsh, Michael, and Tilley, James. 2009. “The Attribution of Credit and Blame to Governments and Its Impact on Vote Choice.” British Journal of Political Science 40: 115–34.
Powell, G., and Whitten, Guy. 1993. “A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of the Political ContextAmerican Journal of Political Science 37 (2): 391414.
Rudolph, Thomas. 2003a. “Institutional Context and the Assignment of Political Responsibility.” Journal of Politics 65 (1): 190215.
Rudolph, Thomas. 2003b. “Who's Responsible for the Economy? The Formation and Consequences of Responsibility Attributions.” American Journal of Political Science 47 (4): 698713.
Rudolph, Thomas. 2006. “Triangulating Political Responsibility: The Motivated Formation of Responsibility Judgments.” Political Psychology 27 (1): 99122.
Rudolph, Thomas, and Grant, J.. 2002. “An Attributional Model of Economic Voting: Evidence from the 2000 Presidential Election.” Political Research Quarterly 55 (4): 805–23.
Smith, Alastair. 1996. “Diversionary Foreign Policy in Democratic Systems.” International Studies Quarterly 40 (1): 133–53.
Somin, Ilya. Forthcoming. Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Wolfers, Justin. 2011. “Are Voters Rational? Evidence from Gubernatorial Elections.” Working Paper, University of Pennsylvania.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed