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Citizens’ Motivated Reasoning about Public Performance: Experimental Findings from the US and Denmark

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  • Martin Bækgaard
  • Oliver James, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
  • Søren Serritzlew
  • Gregg G. Van Ryzin, Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, United States

ABSTRACT: Recent studies find motivated reasoning in citizens’ processing of information about public performance. Using experiments in the US and Denmark, we examine effects on an accuracy-based task of two forms of motivated reasoning: partisan identity-based reasoning and reasoning from ideology-based governance preferences (favoring either the public or the private sector). The experiments incorporate a political prime, a health care needs prime (to reduce politicization), and a neutral, no-prime, condition. We find that priming citizens to think politically accentuates the influence of partisan identities and governance preferences on reasoning. In contrast, priming about the need for a service reduces these biases. These findings extend knowledge of motivated reasoning in an accuracy-based task and priming with a no-prime benchmark, and confirm some findings of previous studies. Reducing the salience of partisan identities or governance preferences in the presentation of information may help stimulate more accuracy-based reasoning about public performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Public Management Journal
Pages (from-to)186-204
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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