Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politics
Posted: 9 Jul 2014 Last revised: 10 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 9, 2014
Partisanship seems to affect factual beliefs about politics. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats are more likely to say that inflation rose under Reagan. What remains unclear is whether such patterns reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead reflect a desire to praise one party or criticize another. To shed light on this question, we build a model of survey response in the presence of partisan cheerleading and payments for correct and “don’t know” responses. We derive testable implications from the model and use it to design two experiments. The experiments show that small payments for correct and “don’t know” answers sharply diminish the gap between Democrats and Republicans in responses to “partisan” factual questions. Our conclusion is that the apparent gulf in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real.
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