In this study, I use a computerized experiment to test whether elected officials differ from everyday citizens in how they use information to make political choices. Ninety state and local level elected officials took part in the study, as did 179 adults from the general population. I tracked participants’ information use as they attempted to solve two hypothetical public policy problems. The data show that while elected officials differ from everyday citizens in their demographics and in the consistency of their political views, these groups did not differ systematically in their depth of information search, their proclivity to compare choice alternatives, or their depth of information processing. These findings held across two different public policy scenarios, controlling for differences in political knowledge, education, and elective experience. In addition to opening a new methodological frontier for the study of political elites, these results accelerate an ongoing debate between Burkeian paternalists and advocates of a more populist democracy.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 17, 2012
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