Do Justification Requirements Reduce Motivated Reasoning in Politicians’ Evaluation of Policy Information? An Experimental Investigation.
73 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 3, 2018
Information is often thought of as key to improving policymaking. However, politicians’ ability to make informed decisions is called into question by literature on motivated reasoning suggesting that politicians will often reject politically uncongenial information. We hypothesize that politicians’ attitudes will bias their reasoning about policy-relevant information but that asking them to justify their evaluations of the information will lead to more effortful, less biased evaluations. We test this on large samples of elected politicians and compare with results among ordinary citizens. Our results reaffirm prior findings of biased reasoning but surprise with regard to the effect of justification requirements. Both politicians and citizens do spend more effort on processing information when they are asked to justify their evaluations, but while this reduces bias among citizens, the reverse is the case among politicians. Politicians rely more on attitudes and less on evidence when they are asked to justify their evaluations.
Keywords: Motivated Reasoning; Policy Information; Political Decision-Making; Evidence-Based Policymaking; Politicians; Bias Reduction
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