Cognitive Reflection and the 2016 US Presidential Election

27 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2018  

Gordon Pennycook

Yale University

David G. Rand

Yale University

Date Written: January 26, 2018

Abstract

It has often been claimed that conservatives tend to rely more on their intuitions and gut feelings than liberals. However, support for this claim is often indirect and inconsistent. Moreover, it is unclear how analytic thinking and political ideology interact to influence political behavior. Here we investigate the relationship between individual differences in analytic thinking (using the Cognitive Reflection Test) and political affiliation, ideology, and voting in the 2016 Presidential Election using a large online sample (N = 15,001). We find that individuals who voted for Donald Trump are less analytic than those who voted for Hillary Clinton or a 3rd party candidate. However, this difference was driven most by Democrats who chose Trump over Hillary Clinton (and, to a lesser degree, Independents). Among Republicans, in contrast, Clinton and Trump voters were similarly analytic, whereas those who voted for a third-party candidate showed more analytic thinking. Furthermore, although we find that Democrats/liberals are somewhat more analytic than Republicans/conservatives overall, political moderates and non-voters are the least analytic whereas Libertarians are the most analytic. Our results suggest that, in addition to the previously theorized positive relationship between analytic thinking and liberalism, there are three additional ways in which intuitive versus analytic thinking is relevant for political cognition: 1) Facilitating political apathy versus engagement, 2) Supporting the adoption of orthodox versus heterodox political positions and behavior, and 3) Drawing individuals toward political candidates who share an intuitive versus analytic cognitive style, and towards policy proposals which are intuitively versus analytically 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). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3110929 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3110929

Gordon Pennycook (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

David G. Rand

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.DaveRand.org

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