Political Behavior

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 101-129

First online:

The race may be close but my horse is going to win: Wish fulfillment in the 1980 presidential election

  • Carole Jean UhlanerAffiliated withSchool of Social Sciences, University of California
  • , Bernard GrofmanAffiliated withSchool of Social Sciences, University of California

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Using data from the 1980 U.S. presidential election, we investigate the extent to which voter expectations about candidate electoral success and margin of victory are subject to systematic biases. In particular, we examine the extent to which candidate supporters overestimate their choice's likelihood of success. After finding a rather dramatic bias in the direction of “wishful thinking,” we review alternative explanations of this phenomenon, including a model based on nonrandom contact networks and one based on preference-related differences in expectations about exogenous variables that could affect the election outcome.