A new study from Northwestern University finds that because of a phenomenon called the false consensus effect, most voters believe that their preferred candidate will win in an election despite what polls say.
Using data from the American Life Panel researchers studied survey responses and results from the 2008 U.S. Presidential election and 2010 senatorial and gubernatorial State elections. Regardless of race, gender or level of schooling, voters believed that their chosen candidate was the most popular — no matter what results from polls said.
For example, someone who strongly supported a Democrat candidate over a Republican would have given a 20 to 30 percent higher chance, on average, that the Democrat would win the election than would someone who strongly supports the Republican.
“People thought their preferred candidate had a higher chance of winning, in every election, no matter in which state they live, no matter who was running, no matter which political party,” said Charles F. Manski, co-author of the paper. “This is one of the strongest empirical regularities I’ve ever seen.”