Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politics

Posted: 9 Jul 2014 Last revised: 10 Jul 2014

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

Seth Hill

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 9, 2014

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Bullock, John G. and Gerber, Alan and Huber, Gregory and Hill, Seth, Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politics (July 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2464215

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

Seth Hill

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

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