Nonrepresentative representatives: An experimental study of the decision making of elected politicians

Lior Sheffer, Peter John Loewen, Stuart Soroka, Stefaan Walgrave, Tamir Sheafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


A considerable body of work in political science is built upon the assumption that politicians are more purposive, strategic decision makers than the citizens who elect them. At the same time, other work suggests that the personality profiles of office seekers and the environment they operate in systematically amplifies certain choice anomalies. These contrasting perspectives persist absent direct evidence on the reasoning characteristics of representatives. We address this gap by administering experimental decision tasks to incumbents in Belgium, Canada, and Israel. We demonstrate that politicians are as or more subject to common choice anomalies when compared to nonpoliticians: they exhibit a stronger tendency to escalate commitment when facing sunk costs, they adhere more to policy choices that are presented as the status-quo, their risk calculus is strongly subject to framing effects, and they exhibit distinct future time discounting preferences. This has obvious implications for our understanding of decision making by elected politicians.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)302-321
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Political Science Association.


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