Same Facts, Different Interpretations: Partisan Motivation and Opinion on Iraq

18 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2007  

Brian J. Gaines

affiliation not provided to SSRN

James H. Kuklinski

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Political Science

Paul J. Quirk

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Buddy Peyton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Cline Center for Democracy

Jay Verkuilen

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract

Scholars assume that citizens perform better when they know pertinent facts. Factual beliefs, however, become relevant for political judgments only when people interpret them. Interpretations provide opportunities for partisans to rationalize their existing opinions. Using panel studies, we examine whether and how partisans updated factual beliefs, interpretations of beliefs, and opinions about the handling of the Iraq war as real-world conditions changed. Most respondents held similar, fairly accurate beliefs about facts. But interpretations varied across partisan groups in predictable ways. In turn, interpretations, not beliefs, drove opinions. Perversely, the better informed more effectively used interpretations to buttress their existing partisan views.

Suggested Citation

Gaines, Brian J. and Kuklinski, James H. and Quirk, Paul J. and Peyton, Buddy and Verkuilen, Jay, Same Facts, Different Interpretations: Partisan Motivation and Opinion on Iraq. Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, Issue 4, pp. 957-974, November 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1066017 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2007.00601.x

Brian J. Gaines (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

James Kuklinski

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Political Science ( email )

702 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
United States
217-333-9589 (Phone)

Paul J. Quirk

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Buddy Peyton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Cline Center for Democracy ( email )

Suite 207
2001 South First Street
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

Jay Verkuilen

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

601 E John St
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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