Tuesday Seminar – 5 October

The Expertise Paradox: How Policy Expertise Can Hinder Responsiveness

Miguel M. Pereira (University of Southern California)
Patrick Ohberg (University of Gothenburg)

We argue that policy expertise constrains the ability of politicians to act on voter preferences. Legislators with more knowledge and experience in a given domain have more confidence in their own issue-specific positions. Enhanced confidence, in turn, may lead legislators to discount opinions they disagree with, producing a distorted image of the electorate. Two experiments with Swedish politicians support our argument. First, we find that officials are more likely to dismiss appeals from voters in their areas of expertise, and less likely to accept that opposing views may represent the majority opinion. Consistent with the proposed mechanism, in a second experiment we show that inducing perceptions of expertise increases self-confidence. The results suggest that representatives with more specialized knowledge in a given area may be less capable of acting as delegates in that domain. The study provides a novel explanation for variations in policy responsiveness.

Contact Semih Çakır if you would like to participate in the seminar.

This content has been updated on 6 December 2021 at 9 h 28 min.