Partisan Bias in Responses to Factual Questions

Posted: 29 Mar 2010

See all articles by John G. Bullock

John G. Bullock

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Abstract

Partisanship has long been known to affect people's attitudes and votes, but political scientists increasingly suggest that it may also affect people's beliefs about purely factual matters. For example, Republicans seem more likely than Democrats to believe that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats seem more likely than Republicans to believe that inflation rose under Reagan. What remains unclear is whether partisan patterns in responses to factual questions actually reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead reflect a desire to voice support for one party or opposition to another. We report results from a 2x2 survey experiment designed to shed light on this question. All subjects were asked a set of factual questions about politics. Some received financial incentives to answer correctly. Others were told that their answers would be scored and reported back to them. And others were exposed to neither or both of these treatments. We find consistent partisan response patterns across all four conditions, which constitutes the strongest evidence to date that such patterns reflect sincere differences in factual beliefs.

Suggested Citation

Bullock, John G. and Gerber, Alan and Huber, Gregory, Partisan Bias in Responses to Factual Questions. Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1580940

John G. Bullock (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place (Scott Hall)
Evanston, IL 60201
United States

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5232 (Phone)

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States

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