Butler, D. M. and Dynes, A. M. (2015), How Politicians Discount the Opinions of Constituents with Whom They Disagree. American Journal of Political Science. doi: 10.1111/ajps.12206
We argue that politicians systematically discount the opinions of constituents with whom they disagree and that this “disagreement discounting” is a contributing factor to ideological incongruence. A pair of survey experiments where state and local politicians are the subjects of interest show that public officials rationalize this behavior by assuming that constituents with opposing views are less informed about the issue. This finding applies both to well-established issues that divide the parties as well as to nonpartisan ones. Further, it cannot be explained by politicians’ desires to favor the opinions of either copartisans or likely voters. A third survey experiment using a sample of voters shows that the bias is exacerbated by an activity central to representative governance—taking and explaining one's policy positions. This suggests that the job of being a representative exacerbates this bias.
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