September 29, 2011 3 Comments
Clearing out my open Chrome tabs and came across this Suzy Khimm post I meant to share:
In an article published in last month’s American Political Science Review, John Bullock evaluates how partisan voters weighed a policy change — a proposed cut to Medicaid benefits — sometimes including the views of party leaders and sometimes not. His main findings:
People rarely possess even a modicum of information about policies; but when they do, their attitudes seem to be affected at least as much by that information as by cues from party elites…Contrary to many accounts, they suggest that party cues do not inhibit such thinking. This is not cause for unbridled optimism about citizens’ ability to make good decisions, but it is reason to be more sanguine about their ability to use information about policy when they have it…Party cues are inﬂuential, but partisans in these experiments are generally affected at least as much—and sometimes much more—by exposure to substantial amounts of policy information.
Bullock also noted that non-partisan policy information tended to influence Democrats more than Republicans:
Republicans were less inﬂuenced than Democrats by policy considerations, and while need for cognition [“the extent to which people enjoy thinking”] made Democrats more responsive to policy, it made Republicans less responsive. [emphasis mine]. More research is required to determine whether these results reﬂect basic differences between members of different parties.
Wow– that’s quite interesting and quite an asymmetry. Got that? The more Republicans have a need for cognition, the more they purposely bury their head in the sand about policy information. Of course, what I really want to know is what exactly is it about Republicans that makes them less responsive to actual policy information. That “more research” Bullock refers to is definitely needed. When I get a chance, I’m going to skim through the actual article and see what it suggests.