The Department of Government
The Department of Government

American Politics Speaker- Adam Thal (Yale Univ)

Are Political Elites Out of Touch? Experimental Evidence From State Legislative Candidates

Mon, December 9, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

American Politics Speaker- Adam Thal (Yale Univ)

Abstract: Politicians frequently disregard the interests of low-income Americans when making policy decisions. I argue that this tendency is partially caused by politicians’ isolation among the rich. I test this theory with experiments embedded in an original survey of 1,224 state legislative candidates from 44 states. In a first experiment, I show that politicians extrapolate from their privileged social networks to form perceptions of broader social conditions, causing them to underestimate how many of those they seek to govern are struggling financially. In a second experiment, I correct politicians’ misperceptions, and find that this causes an increase in their support for social welfare programs that provide struggling families with financial assistance and healthcare. The results are driven by Republican politicians, who are more likely than Democratic politicians to have privileged social networks, underestimate financial hardship among those they seek to govern, and increase their support for welfare programs when I correct their misperceptions.

Adam Thal is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Policy Lab at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He specializes in the study of political behavior, inequality, and American politics. His research attempts to understand the rise of inequality in the United States by studying the political behavior of affluent Americans.   Website.

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