Systematically Biased Beliefs About Political Influence: Evidence from the Perceptions of Political Influence on Policy Outcomes Survey


Retrospective voting circumvents many of voters’ cognitive limitations, but if voters’ attributional judgments are systematically biased, retrospective voting becomes an independent source of political failure. We design and administer a new survey of the general public and political experts to test for such biases. Our analysis reveals frequent, large, robust biases for a wide array of political actors and outcomes, with an overarching tendency for the public to overestimate influence. Retrospective voting usually gives elected leaders supraoptimal incentives, though there are important cases where the reverse holds.