David E. Broockman, Aaron R. Kaufman, and Gabriel S. Lenz
Can voters who know little about their representatives’ actions effectively hold them accountable? An influential perspective argues that voters can infer their representatives’ actions by using interest group ratings as heuristics. Across nine studies in four original samples, we show that information about interest group ratings can have surprisingly pathological effects on voters’ judgments about their representatives. In our studies, voters shown interest group ratings are typically no more accurate at inferring their Member of Congress’ votes, nor do they usually adjust their views of their representatives appropriately. But voters do often engage in heuristic projection: voters act as if interest groups share their own views, approving of their representatives more and perceiving their representatives as agreeing with them on more issues when they learn their representatives received favorable interest group ratings — regardless of whether their representatives earned favorable ratings by casting votes those same voters disagree with.