Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1445: Misrepresentation and Migration: Differences between Voters and Politicians in Sweden

Anders Kärnä () and Patrik Öhberg
Additional contact information
Anders Kärnä: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: Stockholm, and Örebro University, Sweden
Patrik Öhberg: University of Gothenburg

Abstract: Normative theories of representative democracy imply that politicians should be better informed of the consequences of a policy than ordinary voters. However, in real life, politicians can have strong convictions that risk blinding them to arguments against their positions. Policy engagement can lead politicians into motivated reasoning whereby they dismiss voters’ preferences and resist information counter to their own policy position. In this paper, we argue that Sweden’s generous migration policy is an example of a case where politicians’ policy engagement led them to motivated reasoning and to a rather optimistic view of the implications of welcoming a large influx of refugees. We show that Swedish politicians favoured a much more generous policy towards accepting refugees than their own voters. Despite limited evidence that a generous refugee policy is economically favourable in the long run, politicians on average held that belief.

Keywords: Political Misrepresentation; Immigration Policy; Moral Psychology; Political Failure

JEL-codes: O15; P16; P35

Language: English

27 pages, November 23, 2022

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