Are policymakers responsive to expert findings? By leveraging a novel online survey of local and state policymakers across the United States, I evaluate responsiveness to a series of brief messages summarizing established expert findings across three different policy domains (needle exchanges, GMO foods, and rent control). Across these domains, I find that exposure to expert findings is consistently effective in moving policymakers’ stated beliefs and policy preferences toward those of the relevant expert community. Moreover, I find that the effectiveness of these messages are insensitive to the respondent’s party affiliation, even if the expert finding challenges a stance disproportionately held by that party. These findings have implications for current debates about trust in expertise and the potential for evidence-based policymaking.
Nathan Lee's research focuses on how citizens and policymakers form their factual beliefs in politics. In particular, he is interested in the "politics of expertise", i.e., the conditions under which different types of policy-relevant experts succeed or fail to influence policy decisions. He employs a variety of methods, with an emphasis on survey methods and survey experiments. He also has a range of other interests including candidate emergence, energy and environmental policy, interest-group lobbying, and the politics of regulation. In addition, he is also the founder and managing director of CivicPulse (civicpulse.org), an open-access survey panel of government officials around the United States.