The Force of the Better Evidence in Political Opinion Updating
109 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2018
Date Written: November 30, 2017
While deliberative theorists claim that citizens can form their political opinions led by "the force of the better argument," many find this assumption unrealistic. One concern is that people can be easily manipulated because they tend to mechanically and even blindly adopt elite positions as their own. Another concern is that they can be irrationally defensive about their partisan viewpoints, often not budging an inch even when faced with strong counterevidence. In two survey experiments that pit the normative assumption against skeptical hypotheses, I find that people sensibly update their beliefs and attitudes in light of presented arguments and evidence. According to the results, people do not mindlessly accept whatever arguments they encounter, nor do they categorically reject uncongenial arguments. Instead, they account for the strength of evidence as they form their posterior opinions, even when it disconfirms their prior opinion about a highly contentious political issue.
Keywords: Political Persuasion, Deliberative Democracy, Motivated Reasoning, Bayesian Updating; Evidence Strength
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation