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Candidate Preferences and Expectations of Election Outcomes: Evidence from the American Life Panel (WP-11-05)

Adeline Delavande and Charles F. Manski

Analysis of data from the American Life Panel shows that in the 2008 presidential election and multiple statewide elections in 2010, citizens exhibited large differences in their expectations of election outcomes. Expectations were strongly positively associated with candidate preferences, persons tending to believe that their preferred candidate is more likely to win the election. Committed supporters of opposing candidates regularly differed by 20 to 30 percent in their assessments of the likelihood that each candidate would win. This work contributes new empirical evidence on the false consensus effect, the empirical regularity that one’s own preferences tend to be positively associated with perceptions of social preferences. It does so by using new measures of preferences and perceptions that enable respondents to flexibly express uncertainty. In contrast, earlier work has not allowed respondents to express uncertainty about social preferences. The present evidence concerns a setting that would a priori seem inhospitable to false consensus, in which voters have easy access to substantial common knowledge of social preferences conveyed by media reports of election polls.

Adeline Delavande, Economist, RAND Corporation and Assistant Professor of Economics, Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisbon

Charles F. Manski, Board of Trustees Professor of Economics and Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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