Revisiting Elite Perceptions as Mediator of Elite Responsiveness to Public Opinion

Stefaan Walgrave, Stuart Soroka, Peter Loewen, Tamir Sheafer, Karolin Soontjens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Elites forming a perception of what the public wants is an important way in which democratic representation comes about, the assumption holds. Yet very few are the studies that examine the effect of elite perceptions on politician action. This study sets out to revisit the matter, measuring actual public priorities, elite perceptions of public priorities and a wide range of representative actions with regard to a few hundred concrete issues. We find that elite perceptions matter for their representative behavior; elites are much more likely to take action on issues they believe citizens care about. The effect exists across the board; perceptions matter in three different political systems, for different types of political action, and for electorally safe and unsafe, trustee and delegate politicians alike. These results speak to the micro-level factors connecting public and policy agendas, and the conditions under which representatives are attentive to public issue priorities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)364-379
Number of pages16
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the European Research Council (Advanced Grant “INFOPOL,” No. 295735) and the Research Fund of the University of Antwerp (Grant No. 26827). Stefaan Walgrave (University of Antwerp) is the principal investigator of the INFOPOL project, which has additional teams in Israel (led by Tamir Sheafer) and Canada (led by Stuart Soroka and Peter Loewen).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • elite responsiveness
  • elite survey
  • perceptions of public priorities


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