Posted 11 months ago on Jan. 1, 2013, 9:57 a.m. EST by john32
from Pittsburgh, PA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Phys.org)—A new study has thrown doubt on the ability of the average voter to make an accurate judgement of the performance of their politicians, showing that voter biases appear to be deep-seated and broad. Prior research has suggested that random events such as shark attacks or hurricanes decrease the votes received by incumbent politicians, regardless of their actual performance in office. Similarly, voters appear to give undue weight to recent economic performance and are easily swayed by rhetoric. In a series of novel experiments, researchers Gregory A. Huber (Yale), Seth J. Hill (University of California, San Diego), and Gabriel S. Lenz (University of California, Berkeley) found that voters are susceptible to these biases even when given financial incentives to behave otherwise and when the information necessary to avoid these biases was readily available. This in turn makes voters vulnerable to being manipulated by politicians. The findings suggest that incumbents who associate themselves with good news for which they bear no responsibility, implement policies that generate good news close to elections at the expense of overall voter welfare, and use rhetoric that encourages people to focus on how they feel in the here and now, ignoring the long-term, could benefit at the ballot box. In their study, "Source of Bias in Retrospective Decision Making: Experimental Evidence on Voters' Limitation in Controlling Incumbents," reported in the latest edition of the American Political Science Review (APSR) published by Cambridge University Press, Huber, Hill and Lenz asked around 4000 citizens to play a series of games assessing the performance of fictional politicians. As they played, they experienced changes in their earnings. The experiments also manipulated whether they won or lost in a lottery, when they learned about an upcoming election, and the rhetoric surrounding the election.