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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Republican politicians assume everyone’s as crazy as they are

Huffington Post:

Politicians, especially conservative ones, massively overestimate the conservatism of their constituents on the issues of gay marriage and universal health care, an academic paper published Sunday has found.

David E. Broockman of the University of California at Berkeley and Christopher Skovron of the University of Michigan surveyed nearly 2,000 state legislative candidates in the 2012 election and asked them what percentage of their constituents they thought supported same-sex marriage, a universal health care system and abolishing all welfare programs.

The result was a vast conservative misperception. Constituents, on average, supported gay marriage and universal health care by 10 percentage points more than their politicians had estimated. For conservative politicians, the spread was around 20 percentage points, meaning that conservative legislators tend to greatly overestimate how conservative their constituents actually are.

“For perspective, 20 percentage points is roughly the difference in partisanship between California and Alabama,” the authors write. “Most politicians appear to believe they are representing constituents who are considerably different than their actual constituents.”

To make matters worse, they seem to believe this despite all evidence to the contrary; look at all the shock GOPers when they found out that Mitt Romney lost or the continuing belief that voters will eventually blame Pres. Obama for the sequester. They literally do not know what voters in the real world are thinking.

This also explains why Republicans find it so easy to say the most insane things. Todd Akin could’ve just as easily began his weird rape-theorizing with, “As everyone knows…”

Of course, none of this is especially new. I’ve been pointing out for years that conservatives believe whatever the hell it is they want to believe — and reality be damned. I mean, how many times do we need to see polling that shows “even registered republicans think…” or “even NRA members believe…” before it becomes the most obvious thing in the world? But it’s always nice to have these things confirmed empirically.

It may seem like the study shows that liberals and conservatives make the same mistake, but nothing could be further from the truth: liberals and conservatives make the exact opposite mistake in judging the conservatism of their constituents. Liberals err on the side of caution, while conservatives see their constituents through rose-colored glasses. And, of course, the righties are twice as far removed from reality.

But still, there’s valuable insight for lefties here. “For liberal politicians, they appear to have more freedom than they may have initially perceived to act on issues such as gay marriage and health care,” the report tells us. “But the perception that constituents’ wishes are more limited means that a politician may think that 60 percent of constituents need to agree before moving forward with a policy, hence, the idea of a universal health care system is often seen as out-of-reach, though it may not be.”

In other words, political courage from the left stands a good chance of paying off. Especially when your election opponent thinks everyone listens to Sean Hannity.

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