Motivated reasoning and policy information: Politicians are more resistant to debiasing interventions than the general public (accepted manuscript and supplementary material, August 19, 2020)
Christensen, Julian & Donald P. Moynihan (2020). Motivated reasoning and policy information: Politicians are more resistant to debiasing interventions than the general public. Behavioural Public Policy, 1-22. doi:10.1017/bpp.2020.50
22 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2018 Last revised: 9 Dec 2020
Date Written: August 19, 2020
A growing body of evidence shows that politicians use motivated reasoning to fit evidence with prior beliefs. In this, they are not unlike other people. We use survey experiments to reaffirm prior work showing that politicians, like the public they represent, engage in motivated reasoning. However, we also show that politicians are more resistant to debiasing interventions than others. When required to justify their evaluations, politicians rely more on prior political attitudes and less on policy information, increasing the probability of erroneous decisions. The results raise the troubling implication that the specialized role of elected officials makes them more immune to the correction of biases, and in this way less representative of the voters they serve when they process policy information.
Keywords: Motivated reasoning; elite behavior; politicians; debiasing interventions; justification requirements; accountability
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