Nathan Lee

Department of Political Science

Can Experts Correct Misperceptions in Public Policy?


The United States enjoys an unparalleled level of access to policy expertise found across a wide variety of organizations. At the same time, the public has historically harbored ambivalent attitudes toward “experts” in American political discourse, and this is especially true today. This raises an important question: how can the American policy process make the best use of this important source of knowledge? With this question in mind, I conduct a series of survey experiments focused on correcting widespread misperceptions in contemporary issues of public health. In these experiments, I randomly vary the institutional affiliation of the experts providing the corrective information. Preliminary evidence from these experiments suggests that that institutional affiliation of experts is not a major factor for Democrats, but is so for Republicans. In particular, Republicans tend to be significantly more responsive to information from experts in the private sector than experts at universities or government agencies. These findings have important implications for how to best leverage expert input in American policymaking despite increasing political polarization.