The Pandering Politicians of Suspicious Minds



Although the charge that “politicians pander” is common in American politics, there has been little scholarly consideration of the impact of suspicion of pandering on public opinion. In this article, we develop a model of the antecedents and consequences of political suspicion about possible pandering and report the results of an experiment designed to evaluate this model. Suspicion was a function of both the context and the individual’s agreement with the suspect communication, where agreement with an expressed policy position inhibited the arousal of suspicion. Suspicion had a number of meaningful consequences, chief among them uncertainty about the politician’s character and more negative evaluations. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and normative implications of the results for our understanding of how citizens evaluate politicians and the policies they espouse.