Monday, March 4, 2013

Americans May Not Be As Conservative As Their Legislators Think They Are

In news that sure to gladden Cory's heart and cause Gordon Howie and Bob Ellis to scream liberal bias, Garance Franke-Ruta points to a new working paper that concludes that "there's an effective supermajority requirement for passing liberal bills within state legislatures because those lawmakers routinely overestimate the conservatism of their constituents."

The paper "found that "[T]here 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 more than 20 percentage points on average, and liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents' conservatism by several percentage points."

Franke-Ruta concludes:
. . . I don't think it's that conservatives are out of touch with their constituents and unwilling to listen to others, so much as as that they are in touch with a highly organized infrastructure of pressure groups dedicated to lobbying them to vote even more conservatively than their overall constituency might wish. Liberals have never been able to (or, more commonly, sought to) match the extent of state-by-state organizing and statehouse lobbying of conservative groups and causes, even though comparatively small investments can reap major rewards in such environments.
I have not idea if South Dakota's legislators overestimate their constituents' conservatism by more than 20%. I suspect the state is something of an outlier. Given the legislature's composition, it seems that conservative voters here do a far better job of getting out the vote than their liberal counterparts.

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