Benjamin I. Page

Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, Northwestern University

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About Benjamin

Page works on American politics and U.S. foreign policy, specializing in public opinion, democratic policy making, the media, and economic inequality. He is best known for his work (with Robert Y. Shapiro) on the “rationality” of public opinion: the general stability, coherence, and responsiveness to new information of Americans’ collective policy preferences. He is currently studying the political attitudes and behavior of wealthy Americans – the top 1% of U.S. wealth-holders – investigating how they often disagree with average citizens but tend to get their way in policy making. Page’s past civic involvement has been limited, but he is now committed to helping Americans understand the barriers that stand in the way of democratic responsiveness.


In the News

Benjamin I. Page's research on Paul Street, "The ‘Values,’ ‘Vision,’ and ‘Democracy’ of an Inauthentic Opposition," Consortium News, May 3, 2018.
Benjamin I. Page quoted by Michaela Collord, "Critiques of Elite Power aren’t Antisemitic or Conspiratorial – They are Necessary" Red Pepper, April 3, 2018.
Benjamin I. Page quoted by Dylan Matthews, "Studies: Democratic Politicians Represent Middle-Class Voters. GOP Politicians Don’t." Vox, April 2, 2018.
Benjamin I. Page quoted by Alessandro Bruno, "The Erosion of the Middle Class Marks the End of the American Dream" Lombardi Letter, March 20, 2018.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on climate change by Sean McElwee, "Moneyed Interests Are Blocking U.S. Action on Climate Change" Al Jazeera America, February 8, 2016.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on the impact the preferences of economic elites have on public policy by Joe Magruder, "My Turn: The Candidate Who Really Scares the Establishment" Concord Monitor, October 20, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on congressional voting patterns by Thomas B. Edsall, "How Did the Democrats Become Favorites of the Rich?" New York Times, October 7, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on the disconnect between the general public and the establishment by Didier Jacobs, "Why Doesn’t the Foreign Policy Establishment Take World Peace Seriously?" Foreign Policy in Focus, September 25, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on opposition to government spending on higher education by Sean McElwee, "How Voter Registration Could Give Us Debt-Free College" Salon, September 23, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on democracy and the policy preferences of wealthy Americans by Paul Krugman, "Republicans against Retirement" New York Times, August 17, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on how policymakers follow views of big business by John Sides, "New Research Shows Just How Much Presidents Try to Manipulate Public Opinion" The Washington Post, August 9, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page quoted on public opinion on income inequality by Noam Scheiber, "2016 Hopefuls and Wealthy are Aligned on Inequality" New York Times, March 29, 2015.
Benjamin I. Page's research on four theories for explaining who's shaping policy in the U.S. discussed by Boer Deng, "The Silver Lining to Our Oligarchy," Slate, April 24, 2014.
Benjamin I. Page's research on economic élite domination discussed by John Cassidy, "Is America an Oligarchy?," The New Yorker, April 18, 2014.
Benjamin I. Page's research on the relative political influence of U.S. citizens at different income levels (with Martin Gilens) discussed by Larry Bartels, "Rich People Rule!," Washington Post, April 8, 2014.
Benjamin I. Page's research on wealthy citizens' influence over the political process (with Jason Seawright and Larry Bartels) discussed by Susan Adams, "Are the Views of America's Wealthiest Undermining Democracy?," Forbes, April 2, 2014.
"Inside the Heads of the 1%," Benjamin I. Page (with Larry M. Bartels), Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2013.


"Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" (with Martin Gilens). Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (2014): 564-581.
Discusses four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism— that offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.
"Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans" (with Larry M. Bartels and Jason Seawright). Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 1 (March 2013): 51-73.
Demonstrates how the top 1% or so of U.S. wealth-holders appear to disagree with the American public over a number of policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and social welfare programs – and how the policy preferences of the wealthy may help account for why U.S. policy sometimes deviates markedly from what the average citizen would want their government to do.
"Research Note: Political Participation by Wealthy Americans," (with Fay Lomax Cook and Rachel L. Moskowitz), Institute for Policy Research WP 13-03, Northwestern University, October 31, 2012.
Uses data from a small pilot study of the top 1% of U.S. wealth-holders, together with data from surveys of the general public, to show that the truly wealthy are far more active politically than most Americans – even the “affluent.”
Class War? What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality (with Lawrence R. Jacobs) (University of Chicago Press, 2009).
Presents evidence that most Americans favor free enterprise along with practical government programs to distribute wealth more equitably – as opposed to being polarized by party and in constant conflict, as so many Washington officials are.
The Foreign Policy Disconnect: What Americans Want from Our Leaders but Don’t Get (with Marshall M. Bouton) (University of Chicago Press, 2006).
Draws on a series of national surveys to show that Americans generally hold durable, coherent, and sensible opinions about foreign policy, many of which are in opposition to those of policymakers because of differing interests and values (rather than a lack of knowledge on the part of regular citizens).
What Government Can Do: Dealing with Poverty and Inequality (with James R. Simmons) (University of Chicago Press, 2000).
Examines a number of federal and local programs, detailing what government action already does for its citizens and assessing how efficient it is at solving the problems it seeks to address.
The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences (with Robert Y. Shapiro) (University of Chicago Press, 1992).
Offers a definitive and comprehensive account of the policy preferences of the American public and how they have changed, demonstrating that collective public opinion on policy is remarkably coherent and worthy of policymakers’ attention.