Political Support, Cognitive Dissonance and Political Preferences
69 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2022
Date Written: 2022
Voters often express support for a candidate whose policy platforms differ from their ideal policy preferences. We argue that under these circumstance acts of expressing support can causally change voters’ policy preferences. We conceptualize our arguments in a theoretical model of policy preference changes rooted in cognitive dissonance theory. A pre-registered, online experiment with 1,200 U.S. participants confirms our main hypotheses. As predicted by cognitive dissonance theory, voters align their policy preferences with those of the supported candidate. The more important the policy issue, the sharper the change in preferences. We also find that larger pre-support policy distance and higher effort in expressing support increases the magnitude of preference changes. Our results suggest that policy preferences can change mechanically after voters express support for a candidate.
Keywords: political participation, political support, political preferences, cognitive dissonance, online experiment
JEL Classification: C910, D720, D910
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation