SocraticGadfly: Wingnuts in lege think districts more conservative than reality

March 04, 2013

Wingnuts in lege think districts more conservative than reality

A fascinating, in-depth study reported by the Washington Post says both liberals and conservatives in state legislatures think their districts are more conservative than reality, but that the perception problem is a LOT worse from wingnuts.

How much worse?
(C)onservative legislators generally overestimate the conservatism of their constituents by 20 points. “This difference is so large that nearly half of conservative politicians appear to believe that they represent a district that is more conservative on these issues than is the most conservative district in the entire country,” (David) Broockman and (Christopher) Skovron write. This finding held up across a range of issues.
That's huge.

So, no wonder John Cornyn worries about being "primaried," to jump to the federal office level. He thinks the state of Texas has 10 million Ted Cruzes.

More background here:
Is it just that legislators don’t talk to their constituents? Nope. Broockman and Skovron tried and failed to find any relationship between the amount of time legislators spend in their districts, going to community events, and so forth, and the accuracy of their reads on their districts. And this bias afflicts not just their view of their constituents, but their positions generally. 
In other words, they don't just pander to myth, they then help construct it.

At the same time, don't forget, liberals overestimate the conservativism of their representative areas, too. This probably is a partial explainer (though one should always follow the money first) of the rightward drift of many Democrats, especially on an issue that's both vocal and well-financed ... i.e, guns. Or oil-related issues.

I think that's the key. Issues like abortion don't get big dollars. A flat tax doesn't, totally, because big biz likes loopholes. And an occasional issue, like smoking, big bucks just can't overcome too poor an image.

But guns, oil and gas fracking and some related issues? The combination is there.

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