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(51,907 posts)
Fri Mar 15, 2013, 06:33 AM Mar 2013

Legislators think voters are more conservative than they actually are

This is from a consultant's email list--I'm sure she won't mind my copying it, given that I spelled her name right. If you are interested in running for office or working on campaigns, do sign up.

As far as state legislators are concerned, all voters are conservatives.

OK, we’re being hyperbolic. But only a little bit, according to a recent survey that should have all progressive change-makers headed for the planning table - and maybe the budget spreadsheet - to revisit strategy decisions.

David Broockmany and Christopher Skovronz surveyed every candidate for state legislative office in the U.S. in 2012 (about 10,000 people). They got 1,907 responses from a wide variety of districts, candidate types (incumbent, challenger, etc.) and split about equally between Republicans and Democrats. They asked about the candidates’ own positions and what they thought their voters’ positions were on same sex marriage and universal health care. The researchers then matched up the candidates with district-level polling data on those same two issues.


Key findings:

•Conservative politicians overestimate support for conservative policy views among their constituents by over 20 percentage points on average.
•70% of liberal candidates underestimate support for liberal positions among their constituents.
•The democratic process - elections - does nothing to alter politicians’ misperceptions of the conservatism of their voters.
•In districts where supporters of same sex marriage and universal healthcare outnumber opponents by 2 to 1, liberal politicians appear to typically believe these policies enjoy only bare majority support while conservative politicians typically outright reject the notion that these policies command widespread support.

Yikes. So, now what?
At least these three things:

1) Even if you don’t work on state policy, this should be alarming.

46 US Senators and half of current members of the House used to be state legislators. There’s no reason to believe state legislators don’t take their biases and issue positions with them when they’re promoted from the state house to the US Capitol. If you care about progressive federal policy, you should care that state legislators across the ideological perspective dramatically underestimate the progressivity of their constituents.

2) Safe assumption: it’s not just marriage equality and universal health care. Your progressive priority is suffering, too.

The study doesn’t go further than to document state legislative candidates’ dramatic misperceptions of the opinions of their voters on these two progressive issues. The researchers chose those issues because, “(1) these issues are very highly salient in both national and state mass politics, (2) both national and state legislators are currently making high-stakes policy decisions on these issues that will affect tens of millions of Americans, and (3) these issues tap into two core ‘dimensions’ of contemporary American politics: degree of government economic redistribution and involvement in the case of universal healthcare, and social conservatism in the case of same-sex marriage.”

We think it’s safe to hazard a guess that a number of other progressive priorities, from climate change to education to tax reform, could be described the same way, so they likely suffer from the same conservative bias amongst candidates for state office.

3) The overestimation of the conservatism of the electorate matters. Progressive campaigners should work to fix it. Here are some ideas to get you started.

If candidates think their voters are more conservative than they really are, it follows that candidates will take more conservative positions on the stump and in office. At minimum, it’s a safe bet that the misperception prevents some state elected officials from being leaders on progressive issues.
So: what will you and your organization do to fix it?

Just a few of the things we’d love to work with you to try:

•Do in-district, in-depth, issue-specific polling for public release and use in private meetings with state legislative candidates and incumbents.
•Pick a district represented by a wobbly ally (or a sometimes opponent) and go deep in that district to mobilize supporters of your policy position (even if not your organization) to make a call or send an email.
•Test a campaign aimed at people who are likely to support a target incumbent (Republicans in a safe Republican district, for example) to mobilize them to make their opinions known on your issue to their state legislator. Note that this is different than asking them to vote differently; that’s not the point. The point is to correct a misperception.

Holler if you/your organization is game: info@englin.net or 202.683.8465

If you’re interested in more reading on the study, some good resources:

The Atlantic: Are Americans as Conservative as Their Elected Officials Think?http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/are-americans-as-conservative-as-their-elected-officials-think/273669/

Washington Post Wonkblog: One study explains why it’s tough to pass liberal lawshttp://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/are-americans-as-conservative-as-their-elected-officials-think/273669/

Englin Consulting, LLC
Shayna Englin <info@englin.net>
2803 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Suite 719
Alexandria, VA 22301

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(1,309 posts)
2. Maybe the legislators are just telling you what they want you to believe.
Fri Mar 15, 2013, 07:28 AM
Mar 2013

They are politicians after all and pretending people are more conservative and less liberal lets them justify keeping taxes low for the very rich donors they have.
Asserting this without considering that the House is a big beneficiary of the same Gerrymandering that lets politicians sell themselves for the highest dollar is pretty poor analysis.
As an auditor , I learned long ago that people provide answers that serve their purpose. It is not
always true, and in fact with politicians I would say much much likely to be untrue than what you get talking to the first person on the street you meet.
To often we read this politician believes. Just because he said it does not mean he believes it. Republican leaders believe in global warming and have for years, but pretending otherwise helps them burnish their creationist credentials. Lets get some standards in studies or at least not oversell them.


(52,655 posts)
3. I've been saying that for years now.
Fri Mar 15, 2013, 08:16 AM
Mar 2013

Considering everything that has been happening these past years with changes and everything. And people keep forgetting that people die off too. And if you get more of the younger folks involved before they get corrupted it will help too.


(16,993 posts)
4. I get the feeling that many state legislators don't care what voters think
Fri Mar 15, 2013, 08:30 AM
Mar 2013

They do what they want to do anyway. They lie and say it's what most voters want, even though it's not.

Until more progressives get out and vote, bumping these idiots out of office and electing more progressive candidates, nothing will change. Fear and hatred motivate "conservatives" to vote, but many progressives seem to not care enough to vote for change.


(634 posts)
5. so, Third Way Dems are conservatives ....
Fri Mar 15, 2013, 09:13 AM
Mar 2013

...be cause Liberals are lazy?

DINO's think they are following the will of the People?

Notice that when the talk about Liberal Issues that they steer clear of financial policy?

That's because Austerity is the Will of the Oligarchy, not the People.

They absolutely do not care about the People's economic Will or even their wellbeing .

Money is the only motivation for most policy.



(12,121 posts)
7. Yes they do, and sadly, we deregulated our media which allowed consolidation
Fri Mar 15, 2013, 10:26 AM
Mar 2013

by conservative corporations to reinforce the false impression which has served to enrich their major campaign contributors.

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