What is it about?

There is substantial concern about democratic backsliding in the United States. Backsliding typically comes about due to the actions of elites. Yet very few have studied elites' democratic attitudes in the U.S. We show state legislators exhibit less animosity toward the other party, less support for undemocratic practices, and less support for partisan violence than the general public. However, legislators vastly overestimate the levels of animosity, support for undemocratic practices, and support for partisan violence among voters from the other party (though not among voters from their own party). When they learn the other party is more moderate, their own support for undemocratic practices decline This suggests that legislators’ democratic attitudes are causally linked to their perceptions of other-party voters’ democratic attitudes.

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Why is it important?

Our findings highlight the importance of ensuring office holders have access to reliable information about voters from both parties.


This is one of the only studies of elites' views of democracy in the U.S. and it provides a promising path to strengthening democratic attitudes.

James Druckman
Northwestern University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Correcting misperceptions of out-partisans decreases American legislators’ support for undemocratic practices, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2301836120.
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