Sorting Out

Kevin Lewis

July 15, 2022

Groups, Behaviors, and Issues as Cues of Partisan Attachments in the Public
Michael Barber & Jeremy Pope
American Politics Research, forthcoming

What factors do people most associate with the partisan identity of others: group identity, political issue positions, or social behaviors? In this research note, we report the results of a conjoint experiment in which we test the predictive power of descriptive identities against other attributes such as social behaviors and issue positions. We find that when presented with a randomized biography to predict partisanship, people rely on issue positions over descriptive group identities or behaviors. Most issues outperform group affiliations and behaviors, with sexual orientation as the partial exception. We then compared these results to the correlation between the same factors in respondents' own biographies and their own partisan identification. We find that political issues are far less important to people's own partisan affiliations, while group identity is more predictive. We conclude that an understanding or perception of ideological concepts and their association with the political parties in others should be distinguished from adoption of such concepts by individuals themselves.

Filling in the Gaps: False Memories and Partisan Bias
Miles Armaly & Adam Enders
Political Psychology, forthcoming

While cognitive psychologists have learned a great deal about people's propensity for constructing and acting on false memories, the connection between false memories and politics remains understudied. If partisan bias guides the adoption of beliefs and colors one's interpretation of new events and information, so too might it prove powerful enough to fabricate memories of political circumstances. Across two studies, we first distinguish false memories from false beliefs and expressive responses; false political memories appear to be genuine and subject to partisan bias. We also examine the political and psychological correlates of false memories. Nearly a third of respondents reported remembering a fabricated or factually altered political event, with many going so far as to convey the circumstances under which they "heard about" the event. False-memory recall is correlated with the strength of partisan attachments, interest in politics, and participation, as well as narcissism, conspiratorial thinking, and cognitive ability.

Re-examining the spread of moralized rhetoric from political elites: Effects of valence and ideology
Sze-Yuh Nina Wang & Yoel Inbar
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

We examine the robustness of previous research finding increased diffusion of Twitter messages ("tweets") containing moral rhetoric. We use a distributed language model to examine the moral language used by U.S. political elites in two corpora of tweets: one from 2016 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and one from U.S. Members of Congress. Consistent with previous research, we find greater diffusion for tweets containing moral rhetoric, but this is qualified by moral language valence and elite ideology. For both presidential candidates and Members of Congress, negative moral language is associated with increased message diffusion. Positive moral language is not associated with diffusion for presidential candidates and is negatively associated with diffusion for Members of Congress. In both data sets, the relationship between negative moral language and message diffusion is stronger for liberals than conservatives.

Trump Lies, Truth Dies? Epistemic Crisis and the Effect of False Balance Reporting on Beliefs About Voter Fraud
Matthew David Jenkins & Daniel Gomez
International Journal of Press/Politics, forthcoming

Media scholars have long recognized the potential for falsely balanced reporting to distort public opinion, but existing empirical evidence is inconclusive. In this study, we examine the effect of falsely balanced reporting and explicit journalistic intervention on perceptions of voter fraud in U.S. elections through original internet survey experiments conducted in the United States shortly before and after the 2020 U.S. presidential election held on November 3, 2020. The results show that exposure to falsely balanced reporting largely has a null effect on perceptions of voter fraud, though we also find evidence of partisan-based heterogeneity in its effect. The results of the study also show that explicit journalistic intervention equally decreases belief in voter fraud among both Democrats and Republicans before the election, but among Republicans the corrective effect of intervention disappears in the post-election period, suggesting that there are sharp contextual limits on the effect of explicit journalistic intervention.

The Psychology of Coercion Failure: How Reactance Explains Resistance to Threats
Kathleen Powers & Dan Altman
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

When confronted with coercive threats, targets often stand firm rather than back down. We identify one important yet unrecognized factor that causes actors to resist threats: psychological reactance. Reactance theory explains that when someone perceives a threat to their freedom to make choices, they attempt to restore their autonomy by refusing to capitulate. The result is unwillingness to concede to coercion that extends beyond rational incentives. We test for reactance as a cause of coercion failure with two novel experiments. Each experiment pairs a coercive threat treatment with a matched "natural costs" counterpart that imposes the same choice on the target without intentional action by a coercer. Controlling for prominent alternative explanations, including costs, benefits, power, credibility, and reputation, we find that the targets of threats capitulate less frequently and more often support aggression against their opponents.

Broadband Internet and Protests: Evidence from the Occupy Movement
Guilherme Amorim, Rafael Costa Lima & Breno Sampaio
Information Economics and Policy, forthcoming

This paper investigates the influence of broadband Internet availability in the occurrence of events of civil unrest. Using collected data on 2011's Occupy Movement in the U.S., we find that each new Internet Service Provider (which is associated to an increase in broadband penetration) accounts for an increase between 1 and 3 p.p. in the probability of observing protests in a given location. Results are consistent when analyzing county-level data for the contiguous U.S., for each different U.S. region separately (Northeast, Midwest, South and West), and when analyzing city-level data for California. 

Tweeting Others With Respect: Historicist Thinking Can Reduce Blame and Hostile Retaliation to Nasty Communications From Partisan Opponents
Michael Gill, Raihan Alam & Claire Nagelhout
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Hostile partisan communication pervades social media. Partisan hostility often takes the form of reciprocal blaming, where one feels blamed by an out-party member ("She said my beliefs are stupid!") and then reciprocates with blame-fueled verbal hostility. Here, we examine whether historicist narratives, story-like descriptions of how someone developed her beliefs, can reduce such hostile verbal retaliation. In three experiments, strongly liberal or strongly conservative participants were presented with "tweets" that criticized their views. They replied with a "tweet" of their own. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that historicist narratives regarding their criticizer reduced hostile verbal retaliation by both liberals and conservatives. Experiment 3 showed that an abstract historicist reminder - a general message about how life history shapes people - reduced hostile verbal retaliation by liberals. Across experiments, reductions in verbal retaliation were mediated by reduced blame of the criticizer.

Are Subnational Policymakers' Policy Preferences Nationalized? Evidence from Surveys of Township, Municipal, County, and State Officials
Nathan Lee, Michelangelo Landgrave & Kirk Bansak
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

An ongoing debate in American politics concerns the extent to which subnational politics has become "nationalized." We advance this debate by collecting issue-position data on four distinct policy topics from unprecedented national surveys of public officials at both the local and state levels. We then combine this survey data with precinct-level presidential vote-share data that is tabulated to match the boundary of each survey respondent's government jurisdiction. In doing so, we demonstrate that national party sorting of subnational officials is substantively and statistically significant across a range of issues with national salience, that it is consistent across local and state levels of government and it cannot be explained by the party sorting of constituents. These findings have implications both for the scope of nationalization as well as its implications for substantive representation. 

Spatial Polarization, Partisan Climate, and Participatory Actions: Do Congenial Contexts Lead to Mobilization, Resignation, Activation, or Complacency?
Jiyoun Suk, Douglas McLeod & Dhavan Shah
Political Behavior, forthcoming

With increasing evidence on deepening cleavages along geographic lines, we argue that the local political climate plays an important role in political decision-making and engagement. In this study, we aim to understand the role of political contexts in shaping different forms of political participation, whether centered in the local community or in digital spaces. We specifically consider two important contextual factors that potentially relate to participation: the partisan composition of the neighborhood environment and the nature of political representation at the state government level. We introduce two sets of competing arguments: Mobilization and Resignation vs. Activation and Complacency to explain different participatory mechanisms. Using both national survey data collected during the 2016 U.S. election period and zip code and state-level contextual data, we employ three-level multilevel modeling to tease out how multiple factors operating at different levels are related to online or public forms of participation. In general, our findings reveal that individuals living in a state with political underrepresentation are more likely to engage in public forms of actions. Additionally, we examine subgroup analyses to show how contextual relationships with participation are different according to political orientations, such as party identification and political interest.

Who sees which political falsehoods as more acceptable and why: A new look at in-group loyalty and trustworthiness
Jeff Galak & Clayton Critcher
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming 

Many politicians - even those who occupy some of the most powerful offices in the world - lie. Five studies examined how conservative and liberal Americans responded to media reports of politicians' falsehoods - that is, flagged falsehoods (FFs). Even accounting for partisan biases in how much participants dismissed such reports as fake news and assumed that such lies were unintentional, we consistently observed partisan evaluations in how much FFs were seen as justifiable: Republicans and Democrats alike saw their own party's FFs as more acceptable (Studies 1-4). This charitability did not reflect unconditional in-group favoritism. Instead, it was strongest for policy FFs - those meant to advance a party's explicit agenda - as opposed to personal FFs about a politician's past (Study 2) or electoral FFs that strayed from parties' explicit goals by aiming to disenfranchise legally eligible voters (Study 4). Although FFs can undermine general trustworthiness in the eyes of both in-group and out-group members, policy FFs in particular signal partisan trustworthiness (Studies 3-5) - the belief that a politician can be trusted by their own political side and not by the other. For likeminded partisans, such partisan trustworthiness predicted not only the perceived acceptability of FFs, but also perceptions of the politician as a more prototypically moral actor, even outside of the political sphere. These findings validate the importance of our dual conception of trustworthiness in intergroup contexts. 

Epistemic confidence conditions the effectiveness of corrective cues against political misperceptions
Ian Anson
Research & Politics, June 2022

Does epistemic confidence affect Americans' willingness to defend misperceptions in the face of correction? Individuals with excessive confidence in their political knowledge are expected to resist the effects of corrective cues against political misperceptions. In this study, I assess the effects of confidence on skepticism towards five common political misperceptions in observational and experimental settings. In Study 1, I observationally assess the effects of epistemic confidence on resistance to corrective cues. In Study 2, I temper excessive confidence among a random subset of respondents using a specialized experimental treatment, before exposing them to a corrective cue. Together, the results show that corrections can reduce support for misperceptions among those with modest confidence. However, in the presence of excessive epistemic confidence, these treatments are ineffective. The present findings suggest that epistemic confidence complicates the work of fact-checkers and science communicators in modern democratic politics.

Is political extremism supported by an illusion of understanding?
Steven Sloman & Marc-Lluis Vives
Cognition, forthcoming

Polarization is rising in most countries in the West. How can we reduce it? One potential strategy is to ask people to explain how a political policy works - how it leads to consequences - because that has been shown to induce a kind of intellectual humility: Explanation causes people to reduce their judgments of understanding of the issues (their "illusion of explanatory depth"). It also reduces confidence in attitudes about the policies; people become less extreme. Some attempts to replicate this reduction of polarization have been unsuccessful. Is the original effect real or is it just a fluke? In this paper, we explore the effect using more timely political issues and compare judgments of issues whose attitudes are grounded in consequentialist reasoning versus protected values. We also investigate the role of social proof. We find that understanding and attitude extremity are reduced after explanation but only for consequentialist issues, not those based on protected values. There was no effect of social proof.


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