Analyst says lawmakers think constituents are more conservative than they are

Brookings Institute fellow Vanessa Williamson said on Monday that lawmakers tend to think their constituents are more conservative than they actually are.  

"There have been studies done recently looking at whether members of Congress can accurately guess the views of their own district, and the extent to which they are wrong is shocking," Williamson told Hill.TV's Jamal Simmons on "What America's Thinking." 

"You would think that this is the most vital thing for a congressman to know, do my constituents agree with the position I've taken on an issue?" she continued. 

"Democrats and Republicans both tended to get this wrong. They both tended to imagine that their constituents were more conservative than they are, and Republicans by a larger margin," she said. 

"The signal is not actually coming through at the district level. People are not actually reaching their congressman in sort of a broad way so that they're getting a fair or average view of what their constituents think," she said. 

A paper released late last year by the American Political Science Review found that Republicans underestimated their support among constituents on various policies, including gun background checks. 

The study found that Republican offices underestimated support for background checks by 49 percentage points, while Democratic offices underestimated constituent support for the issue it by 11 points. 

The authors of the paper said wealthy lobbyists and their influence in politics are in large part to blame. 

— Julia Manchester