AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
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 Republicans, who are more likely than Democrats 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 Policy Research at Yale University’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University in the fall of 2017. He studies political behavior, public policy, and inequality in the United States. His research was awarded the Best Dissertation on Political Psychology by the American Political Science Association in 2018, and the Best Paper on Class and Inequality by the American Political Science Association in 2016. His work has also been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Political Behavior, and Public Opinion Quarterly.
This workshop is open to Yale faculty, students, and professional staff only.