A Computational Model of the Citizen as Motivated Reasoner: Modeling the Dynamics of the 2000 Presidential Election

47 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2008

See all articles by Sung-youn Kim

Sung-youn Kim

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Charles S. Taber

Stony Brook University - Department of Political Science

Milton Lodge

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 10, 2008

Abstract

We develop a computational model of political attitudes and beliefs that incorporates contemporary theories of social and cognitive psychology with well-documented findings from electoral behavior. We compare this model, John Q. Public (JQP), to a Bayesian learning model via computer simulations of empirically observed changes in candidate evaluations over the course of the 2000 presidential election. In these simulations, JQP clearly outperforms the Bayesian learning model. In particular, JQP reproduces responsiveness, persistence, and polarization of political attitudes, while the Bayesian model has difficulty accounting for persistence and polarization. We demonstrate that motivated reasoning - the discounting of information that challenges prior attitudes coupled with the uncritical acceptance of attitude-consistent information - is the reason our model can better account for persistence in candidate evaluations over the course of the campaign. Two implications follow from the comparison of models: (1) motivated reasoning explains the responsiveness, persistence, and polarization of political attitudes, and (2) any learning model that does not incorporate motivated reasoning will have difficulty accounting for the persistence and polarization of political attitudes.

Keywords: political cognition, information processing, motivated reasoning, political attitudes, computational modeling

Suggested Citation

Kim, Sung-youn and Taber, Charles S. and Lodge, Milton, A Computational Model of the Citizen as Motivated Reasoner: Modeling the Dynamics of the 2000 Presidential Election (October 10, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1282323 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1282323

Sung-youn Kim

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Charles S. Taber (Contact Author)

Stony Brook University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States
631-632-7659 (Phone)
631-632-4116 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stonybrook.edu/polsci/ctaber

Milton Lodge

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States

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