Electoral Confidence, Overconfidence, and Risky Behavior: Evidence from a Study with Elected Politicians

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Authors Lior Sheffer, Peter John Loewen
Journal/Conference Name POLITICAL BEHAVIOR
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Democratic theory makes strong assumptions about the relationship between politicians’ likelihood of retaining office and their behavior in office. Specifically, confidence in re-election is often used to explain a willingness to take risks. In this paper, we make a distinction between politicians’ accurate assessments of their likelihood of being re-elected and an overestimation of this likelihood (i.e. their overconfidence). We argue that overconfidence by politicians is associated with a higher willingness to make risky decisions. Using a sample of incumbent members of the national parliaments of Belgium, Canada, and Israel, we show that their preference for risk-taking is predicted by self-reported confidence in their likelihood of re-election. We further show that this relationship is largely explained by overconfidence, while ‘objective’ electoral safety is not associated with risky behavior in office.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R
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