Kalla, J., & Porter, E. (2020). Correcting Bias in Perceptions of Public Opinion Among American Elected Officials: Results from Two Field Experiments. British Journal of Political Science, 1-9. DOI: 10.1017/S0007123419000711.
While concerns about the public's receptivity to factual information are widespread, much less attention has been paid to the factual receptivity, or lack thereof, of elected officials. Recent survey research has made clear that US legislators and legislative staff systematically misperceive their constituents' opinions on salient public policies. This study reports the results from two field experiments designed to correct misperceptions of sitting US legislators. The legislators (n = 2,346) were invited to access a dashboard of constituent opinion generated using the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Despite extensive outreach efforts, only 11 per cent accessed the information in Study 1 and only 2.3 per cent did so in Study 2. More troubling for democratic norms, legislators who accessed constituent opinion data were no more accurate at perceiving their constituents' opinions. The findings underscore the challenges confronting efforts to improve the accuracy of elected officials' perceptions and suggest that elected officials may indeed resist factual information.
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