More asymmetry

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.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to More asymmetry

  1. This study is absolute bunk. Democrats are overhwelmingly driven by feelings and emotions and rarely can discuss politics without screaming, name calling and verbal putdowns.

    Repubs on the other hand are all about facts and logic. I would again recall for you your absolute refusal to look at my facts on global warming. You based your decisions upon your FEELINGS about scientists and the naive notion that they are above the fray.

    John Wilder

  2. Jason says:

    You respond to an academic article finding that Republicans, when presented with non-partisan findings, are less likely to acknowledge them than Democrats, by refusing to acknowledge the findings of the article? Based on what?

  3. itchy says:

    John Wilder, I couldn’t write a better parody comment if I tried.

    But I can do a better job speculating about the study’s conclusions. An alternative/supplemental explanation is that Republican voters trust their party leadership more than Democrats trust their leaders and/or Republicans distrust Democrat leaders more than Dems distrust Republican leaders.

    If I am a Republican voter, and I’m semi-informed on a bill that seems OK but is favored by Democrats, which explanation is more likely — that Democrats have suddenly shifted right in their policy, or that there’s something hidden in there that I can’t glean?

    If my party opposes it, I assume they know more about it than I do. I assume the Democrats are trying to slip something past me. They are politicians, after all. I don’t have the time or expertise to analyze every subparagraph to look for loopholes.

    It’s a heuristic, and it’s a rational approach, depending on your level of trust in the people in whom you’re relying. As with most heuristics, it can work in some cases and fail in others.

    (Sorry for that bit of screaming and name calling, but I’m just so overwhelmingly driven by feelings and emotions, I couldn’t help it.)

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