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

Lior Sheffer, Peter Loewen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-51
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Behavior
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

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