Voters’ ability to perceive political parties’ positions on policy scales is a precondition for a functioning and responsive electoral democracy. Appropriate measures of policy distance are thus key to addressing the link between political parties and the citizens. This chapter reviews the scholarship on ideal point estimation, identifying the main methodological and substantial implications for empirical studies involving issue scales. Next, the chapter applies two-stage Bayesian Aldrich-McKelvey scaling to European Election Studies data to find evidence of systematic perceptual distortions: right-wing voters perceive political parties as more progressive than they actually are, while knowledgeable voters perceive greater differences between parties. Perceptual bias is also shown to correlate with standard polarization measures based on perceived party positions.
Recommended citation: De Angelis, Andrea (2019). How Voters Distort their Perceptions and Why this Matters. In: Suhay, E., Grofman, B., and Trechsel, A., The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Persuasion.