Not on the same team

Kevin Lewis

October 27, 2017

Morally Reframed Arguments Can Affect Support for Political Candidates
Jan Voelkel & Matthew Feinberg
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Moral reframing involves crafting persuasive arguments that appeal to the targets' moral values but argue in favor of something they would typically oppose. Applying this technique to one of the most politically polarizing events - political campaigns - we hypothesized that messages criticizing one's preferred political candidate that also appeal to that person's moral values can decrease support for the candidate. We tested this claim in the context of the 2016 American presidential election. In Study 1, conservatives reading a message opposing Donald Trump grounded in a more conservative value (loyalty) supported him less than conservatives reading a message grounded in more liberal concerns (fairness). In Study 2, liberals reading a message opposing Hillary Clinton appealing to fairness values were less supportive of Clinton than liberals in a loyalty-argument condition. These results highlight how moral reframing can be used to overcome the rigid stances partisans often hold and help develop political acceptance.

The Paradoxical Effect of Speech-Suppressing Appeals to the First Amendment
Kayla Canelo, Thomas Hansford & Stephen Nicholson
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


While the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government from imposing adverse consequences for speech it dislikes, in popular discourse this part of the Constitution is often referenced in an attempt to suppress nongovernmental criticism of controversial statements. To assess whether inappropriate, speech-suppressing appeals to the First Amendment cause intolerance of criticism or, unintentionally, promote tolerance of adverse responses to controversial statements, we employ a survey experiment and find evidence of the latter effect. Appeals to the Free Speech Clause that seek to suppress speech have the unintended consequence of increasing public tolerance for speech. Invoking freedom of speech is what matters, not the specific direction of the appeal.

Anger and Declining Trust in Government in the American Electorate
Steven Webster
Political Behavior, forthcoming


Partisanship in the United States in the contemporary era is largely characterized by feelings of anger and negativity. While the behavioral consequences of this new style of partisanship have been explored at some length, less is known about how the anger that is at the root of this growing partisan antipathy affects Americans' views of the national government. In this paper, I utilize data from the 2012 American National Election Studies to show that higher levels of anger are associated with a greater level of distrust in government across a variety of metrics. I then present evidence from a survey experiment on a national sample of registered voters to show that anger has a causal effect in reducing citizens' trust in government. Importantly, I find that anger is able to affect an individual's views of the national government even when it is aroused through apolitical means. I also find that merely prompting individuals to think about politics is sufficient to arouse angry emotions. In total, the results suggest that anger and politics are closely intertwined, and that anger plays a broad and powerful role in shaping how Americans view their governing institutions.

Science Denial Across the Political Divide: Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science
Anthony Washburn & Linda Skitka
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


We tested whether conservatives and liberals are similarly or differentially likely to deny scientific claims that conflict with their preferred conclusions. Participants were randomly assigned to read about a study with correct results that were either consistent or inconsistent with their attitude about one of several issues (e.g., carbon emissions). Participants were asked to interpret numerical results and decide what the study concluded. After being informed of the correct interpretation, participants rated how much they agreed with, found knowledgeable, and trusted the researchers' correct interpretation. Both liberals and conservatives engaged in motivated interpretation of study results and denied the correct interpretation of those results when that interpretation conflicted with their attitudes. Our study suggests that the same motivational processes underlie differences in the political priorities of those on the left and the right.

Partisan Bias and Expressive Voting
Andrea Robbett & Peter Hans Matthews
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming


We conduct an experiment to characterize the "expressive" voting behavior of political partisans. We find that participants who are asked to vote on the answer to factual questions tend to offer more partisan responses than those who must answer as decisive individuals. We further test whether voters exploit corrective information that sometimes challenges their partisan views. When information is available, we observe smaller partisan gaps and more correct responses, especially when the information is free. When information is costly to acquire, we find that voters generally choose to remain uninformed, consistent with the Downsian theory of rational ignorance.

Media Source, Selective Exposure, and Susceptibility to False Information
Katherine Clayton et al.
Dartmouth College Working Paper, September 2017


We investigate citizens' perceptions of ideological bias in the media and their selective exposure to ideologically congenial sources when the news contains false information. In a survey experiment, we presented study participants with a news article excerpt that varied by source shown (CNN, Fox News, or no source) and content (true or false information). We then measured the participants' perceived accuracy of the information and their interest in reading the rest of the article. We find that while the effects of news source are mixed, information content has consistently large effects. Contrary to the common claim that American people have low confidence in the media, they tend to believe news stories irrespective of their source and of whether they contain false information. They also tend to exhibit a stronger interest in reading more when the article excerpt provides false -- and more surprising -- information, regardless of source.

Americans, Not Partisans: Can Priming American National Identity Reduce Affective Polarization?
Matthew Levendusky
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


In recent years, Americans have become more affectively polarized: that is, ordinary Democrats and Republicans increasingly dislike and distrust members of the opposing party. Such polarization is normatively troubling, as it exacerbates gridlock and dissensus in Washington. Given these negative consequences, I investigate whether it is possible to ameliorate this partisan discord. Building on the Common Ingroup Identity Model from social psychology, I show that when subjects' sense of American national identity is heightened, they come to see members of the opposing party as fellow Americans rather than rival partisans. As a result, they like the opposing party more, thereby reducing affective polarization. Using several original experiments, as well as a natural experiment surrounding the July 4th holiday and the 2008 summer Olympics, I find strong support for my argument. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for efforts to reduce polarization more generally.

Rethinking Compassion: Toward a Political Account of the Partisan Gender Gap in the United States
Scott Blinder & Meredith Rolfe
Political Psychology, forthcoming


Scholarship on the political gender gap in the United States has attributed women's political views to their greater compassion, yet individual-level measures of compassion have almost never been used to directly examine such claims. We address this issue using the only nationally representative survey to include psychometrically validated measures of compassion alongside appropriate political variables. We show that even though women are more compassionate in the aggregate than men in some respects, this added compassion does not explain the gender gap in partisanship. Female respondents report having more tender feelings towards the less fortunate, but these empathetic feelings are not associated with partisan identity. Women also show a slightly greater commitment to a principle of care, but this principle accounts for little of the partisan gap between men and women and has no significant relationship with partisanship after accounting for gender differences in egalitarian political values.

Worldview Conflict in Daily Life
Mark Brandt, Jarret Crawford & Daryl Van Tongeren
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Building on laboratory- and survey-based research probing the psychology of ideology and the experience of worldview conflict, we examined the association between worldview conflict and emotional reactions, psychological well-being, humanity esteem, and political ideology in everyday life using experience sampling. In three combined samples (total N = 328), experiencing disagreement compared to agreement was associated with experiencing more other-condemning emotions, less well-being, and less humanity esteem. There were no clear associations between experiencing disagreement and experiencing self-conscious emotions, positive emotions, and mental stress. None of the relationships were moderated by political ideology. These results both replicate and challenge findings from laboratory- and survey-based research, and we discuss possible reasons for the discrepancies. Experience sampling methods can help researchers get a glimpse into everyday worldview conflict.

Further Evidence that Creativity and Innovation are Inhibited by Conservative Thinking: Analyses of the 2016 Presidential Election
Mark Runco, Selcuk Acar & Nur Cayirdag
Creativity Research Journal, Summer 2017, Pages 331-336


The investigation replicated and extended previous research showing a negative relationship between conservatism and creative accomplishment. Conservatism was estimated, as in previous research, from voting patterns. The voting data used here were from the 2016 US Presidential election. The number of patents granted per county in the United States was used as estimate of creative and innovative accomplishment. Using a 2-level multilevel approach, in which state-level influences are taken into consideration, various control variables were tested, including socioeconomic status (SES), education, income, and diversity. The results confirmed a negative relationship between conservatism and the number of patents granted. Therefore, in counties and states with high conservatism, fewer patents were granted, even after controlling for SES and population. Patents were positively related to racial diversity and education. Practical implications include the benefits of liberal thinking outside of the political arena. Liberal thinking is very likely associated with flexibility, tolerance, and openness, and according to the present results, creative accomplishment. Limitations of the research and future directions are discussed.

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