Are Americans as conservative as their elected officials think? According to a new working paper, the answer is no — not by a long shot.

U.S._Capitol_Building_at_NightA working paper by political-science graduate students David Broockman of Berkeley and Christopher Skovron of the University of Michigan suggests that there’s an effective supermajority requirement for passing liberal bills within state legislatures because those lawmakers routinely overestimate the conservatism of their constituents.

Their paper, “What Politicians Believe About Their Constituents: Asymmetric Misperceptions and Prospects for Constituency Control,” found that “[T]here is a striking conservative bias in politicians’ perceptions, particularly among conservatives: conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by more than 20 percentage points on average, and liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.”

The survey studied opinions of nearly 2,000 state legislative candidates and compared it with “actual district-level opinion” based on other surveys.

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Source: Garance Franke-Ruta | The Atlantic | March 4, 2013