Politically Motivated Causal Evaluations of Economic Performance

AbstractThe current study seeks to extend research on motivated reasoning by examining how prior beliefs influence the interpretation of objective graphs displaying quantitative information. The day before the 2018 midterm election, conservatives and liberals made judgments about four economic indicators displaying real-world data of the US economy. Half of the participants were placed in an 'alien cover story' condition where prior beliefs were reduced under the guise of evaluating a fictional society. The other half of participants in the 'authentic condition' were aware they were being shown real-world data. Despite being shown identical data, participants in the Authentic condition differed in their judgments of the graphs along party lines. The participants in the Alien condition interpreted the data similarly, regardless of politics. There was no evidence of a "backfire" effect, and there was some evidence of belief updating when shown objective data.

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