Cognitive Reflection and the 2016 US Presidential Election

Forthcoming in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

46 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2018 Last revised: 21 May 2018

Gordon Pennycook

University of Regina

David G. Rand


Date Written: January 26, 2018


We present a large exploratory study (N = 15,001) investigating the relationship between cognitive reflection and political affiliation, ideology, and voting in the 2016 Presidential Election. We find that Trump voters are less reflective than Clinton voters or third-party voters. However, much (although not all) of this difference was driven by Democrats who chose Trump. Among Republicans, conversely, Clinton and Trump voters were similar whereas third-party voters were more reflective. Furthermore, although Democrats/liberals were somewhat more reflective than Republicans/conservatives overall, political moderates and non-voters were least reflective whereas Libertarians were most reflective. Thus, beyond the previously theorized correlation between analytic thinking and liberalism, these data suggest three additional consequences of reflectiveness (or lack thereof) for political cognition: 1) Facilitating political apathy versus engagement, 2) Supporting the adoption of orthodoxy versus heterodoxy, and 3) Drawing individuals toward candidates who share their cognitive style, and towards policy proposals which are intuitively compelling.

Keywords: Political Ideology; 2016 Election; Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton; Cognitive Reflection; Analytic Thinking; Intuition; Dual Process Theory

Suggested Citation

Pennycook, Gordon and Rand, David G., Cognitive Reflection and the 2016 US Presidential Election (January 26, 2018). Forthcoming in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Available at SSRN: or

Gordon Pennycook (Contact Author)

University of Regina ( email )

3737 Wascana Parkway
Regina, Saskatchewan S4S OA2

David G. Rand

MIT ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States


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