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Preference Coherence

Craig M. Burnett

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington

Mathew D. McCubbins

Duke University

October 29, 2009

A hoary question in political science is what are political preferences and where do they come from? We argue that when people face multidimensional choices they must construct their preferences to cohere with their choice before they can make a decision. One implication of this theory is that individuals who can construct coherent preferences will be able to make their vote choice sooner. We make use of the 2004 National Annenberg Election Study to test this hypothesis and with it the theory of preference construction. With these data, we utilize Optimal Classification to derive our treatment variable: respondents’ level of preference coherence as measured by how well the OC algorithm classifies their responses to attitudinal survey questions. We then examine decision time in an ordered probit framework to generate our results. The findings offer significant support for our theory and have broad implications for the study of individual-level political decision-making.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: preference formation, preference construction, voting, scaling

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Date posted: October 24, 2009 ; Last revised: November 2, 2009

Suggested Citation

Burnett, Craig M. and McCubbins, Mathew D., Preference Coherence (October 29, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1489104 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1489104

Contact Information

Craig M. Burnett (Contact Author)
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington ( email )
601 South College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403
United States
910-962-2161 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://people.uncw.edu/burnettc/
Mathew D. McCubbins
Duke University ( email )
Department of Political Science
208 Gross Hall, 140 Science Drive
Durham, NC 27708
United States
(213) 973-7538 (Phone)
(213) 973-3623 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://mccubbins.us
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