Re-Assessing Elite-Public Gaps in Political Behavior

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Political scientists often criticize psychological approaches to the study of politics on the grounds that many psychological theories were developed on convenience samples of college students or members of the mass public, whereas many of the most important decisions in politics are made by elites, who are presumed to differ systematically from ordinary citizens. This paper proposes an overarching framework for thinking about differences between elites and masses, presenting the results of a meta-analysis of 162 paired treatments from paired experiments on political elites and mass publics, as well as an analysis of 12 waves of historical elite and mass public opinion data on foreign policy issues over a 43 year period. It finds political scientists both overstate the magnitude of elite-public gaps in decision-making, and misunderstand the determinants of elite-public gaps in political attitudes, many of which are due to basic compositional differences rather than to elites' domain-specific expertise.




Kertzer, J. D. (2022). Re-Assessing Elite-Public Gaps in Political Behavior. American Journal of Political Science, 66(3), 539–553.

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