We attempt to explain why some constitutents are well informed and others are poorly informed about the positions taken by their U.S. Senators. The acquisition of political information is modeled in a Bayesian framework. A constituent with virtually no information about a candidate assigns him an average position on a liberal/conservative spectrum. As more political information is acquired with more political involvement, the constituent shifts her prior toward the politician's actual position and thus has a smaller error in assessing positions taken by her representative. In the Bayesian framework, voters make larger errors in evaluating the records of party mavericks than of typical party members. The model is tested using data from the 1982 American National Election Study. Data on the respondent's perceived ideology of their Senators and their socioeconomic characteristics are combined with information on the Senators' actual ideology, length of time in the Senate, political party, and candidacy for re-election in 1982. The empirical analysis provides support for our predictions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Economics and Econometrics