Department of Political Science

How Getting the Facts Right Can Fuel Partisan-Motivated Reasoning

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Scholars often evaluate citizens' democratic competence by focusing on their ability to get relevant facts right. In this article, I show why this approach can yield misleading conclusions about citizen competence. I argue that although citizens with strong partisan loyalties might be forced to accept the same facts, they find alternative ways to rationalize reality. One such way, I show, is through the selective attribution of credit and blame. With four randomized experiments, conducted in diverse national settings and containing closed- as well as open-ended questions, I find that as partisans correctly updated economic beliefs to reflect new facts, they conversely attributed responsibility in a highly selective fashion. Although partisans might acknowledge the same facts, they are apt in seizing on and producing attributional arguments that fit their preferred worldviews.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Pages (from-to)824-839
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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