Up | March 09, 2013
>>> one of the enduring an mystifying paradoxes of american politics , politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to have a larger appetite than conservative voters themselves do. here's house speaker john boehner in february calling for more spending cuts to reduce the deficit, insisting the american people agree with him.
>> the number one priority for the american people is creating jobs and getting our spending under control. the american people believe that the tax question has been settled. americans know that another tax hike isn't going to help them. what they want is for the spending under control. republicans may not be the majority party here in washington, but the american people would agree with us on this. and we're going to continue to stand with the american people .
>> stirring oration as ever from john boehner . actual polls say boehner is wrong about what the american want. according to polls conducted by the pew research and " usa today " in february, 62% of americans think the budget cuts that took effect on march 1st know that the budget cuts will will be an effect. so if the appetite on conservative policies are so limited why are the republicans convinced that the americans agree with hthem.
>> the working paper pound that politicians tend to vastly overestimate just how conservative their constituents are. researchers found that liberal politicians tend to underestimate support for health care , by five or ten points. conservative politicians do even worse . they underestimate support in their districts for universal health care by a stunning 20 points. the same trend holds through for a social issue like same-sex marriage. liberal politicians seem to underestimate same- sex machine by five percentage points. conservatives underestimate by over 20 percentage point. they overestimate how conservative their constituents are. no wonder, we're talking about for instance cutting social security and limiting eligibility and medicare rather than say, raising social security benefits and lowering the medicare age. the findings find so much about the behavior of politicians it may be no less than the rosetta stone of american politician . joining me, jeff smith an assistant professor at the milano, the new school for management and urban policy. and chris govern, a graduate student . and one of the co-authors along with david brockman of the university of california berkley about their constituents. obviously, i love this paper because it's like a huge, huge hit of confirmation bias for me. so thank you for providing data which maps up my presifting bias. walk us through how you did this. the data that this is built on is fascinating. what do you do here?
>> thanks, chris . in august, we teamed up with conclusion at duke and nick kansas, we launched the national candidate study. we interviewed about 2,000 candidates for legislative office across the country. part of the study, we asked them to estimate which share of their constituents supports policies. we then used a national example for that support, compared their accuracy and found pretty while inaccuracies. the data is all over the place. but there is this conservative bias that shows up there.
>> and the conservative bias is interesting. it's consistent across how conservative the districts themselves are. it's consistent across a variety of things. it's just like the data, empirical, but data jumps out.
>> yes, we must emphasize that it hasn't been peer reviewed. there is a systematic trend. we looked for things that we predict might predict accuracy as well as the ideology. things like age and race. this is the big one that jumped out at us.
>> a relationship between how competitive that district is about how well you know where your constituents are on this kind of thing.
>> incumbency didn't affect it. we also went back and asked respondents back in november after the election and they didn't improve either.
>> so the election happens you get the democratic feedback, what's the term you guys used, constituency control? that could be the mechanic. you run for office and you say, i hate, smiame-sex marriage. and then you lose. then you say, i really got wrong my district?
>> is this the vocal minority problem you? think about electives -- and it's not like the way they have the money available to run constant polls and constant town hall meetings . so they're gauging their positions on the constituents based on what comes to them?
>> we should know, you of course as a state legislator , there's one level that state legislators could be closer to constituents because there's fewer and more local. but on another level because you're typical and can't afford to run polls?
>> right. and they have sort of a war chest to keep with, with congressional leads, several millions. an average state legislator might have a war chest of $5,000 or $10,000. so they don't have the funds to be doing that. now, of course, you should be knocking on doors all the time. you should always be taking a poll. but another exception to that is a lot of state legislators have other jobs. they've got to make a living doing something else. they don't have the time to talk to voters out there. i know, chris , you didn't find a difference based on whether the state legislators were professionalized or citizen legislators, did you?
>> that's right. just to the state legislators that we think of highly professionalized. and the pattern held there and asymmetrical inaccuracies.
>> there's two different things that a legislator could be responding to. there's all the constituents and then a subset of that, your supporters. in the republican party , especially today, i think that republican politicians are very responsive, scared.
>> of their supporters.
>> and so i think calls -- counts as constituency control. but a subset of your constituent. on the democratic party , i think the dynamic is the other way. i think that a lot of times you see the democratic base moving with their leaders.
>> most democrats now support the flying death drone about the drone program. so now republicans are polling their constituents.
>> and i think it's something that changed a lot in the last several years. if you look back to 2004 , the insurgents with net roots pulled the democratic party towards the left.
>> that's right.
>> now, in 2005 , 2006 , you got a sense of that starting to change after we lost the 2004 election yet people like chuck schumer and rahm emanuel running the two senate house campaign committees. yet they took nominees like bob casey in pennsylvania saying hey, he the nominee. we don't want barbara hafer . we want a pro-life guy. that started the democratic party top-down control. at the same time, you see in the republican party , the ted cruz , the marco rubio . the rand paul.
>> let's say that the data does hold up. first of all i want to show this because i do think -- the first question is, is your prediction that this gap would shrink or expand if you did this for members of congress?
>> you know, i think it's interesting -- i think that it's interesting that you're talking with jeff about size of district and connection with the constituents. we intuitively think that they would be closer. the kinds of questions we've been asking, give us a number, you need polls to do that very accurately.
>> right, right.
>> it depends on whether we value representation.
>> but here's something that i think suggests that the same trend might be the case in -- at an actual level. house republicans have gotten more conservative while the share of voters describing themselves as conservative has stayed the same. in 1976 , the percent of voters that described themselves as conservative was 32%. 2012 , 35%. it's a fairly stable group . conservative rating of house republicans on the dw nominating score which we use all the time goes straight up. there's a wedge between what's happening there even if you haven't run the data at the national level. part of the reason i find the data so compelling precisely as we see at this natural level. when we come back, i want to talk about what account for it. there's a whole bunch of theories we could throw out. i thought yours was very interesting. sometimes