Political Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 271–290 | Cite as

In the Eye of the Beholder? Motivated Reasoning in Disputed Elections

  • Kyle C. KopkoEmail author
  • Sarah McKinnon Bryner
  • Jeffrey Budziak
  • Christopher J. Devine
  • Steven P. Nawara
Original Paper


This study uses an experimental design to simulate the ballot counting process during a hand-recount after a disputed election. Applying psychological theories of motivated reasoning to the political process, we find that ballot counters’ party identification conditionally influences their ballot counting decisions. Party identification’s effect on motivated reasoning is greater when ballot counters are given ambiguous, versus specific, instructions for determining voter intent. This study’s findings have major implications for ballot counting procedures throughout the United States and for the use of motivated reasoning in the political science literature.


Motivated reasoning Partisanship Disputed elections Ballot counting 



The authors would like to thank the following individuals for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript: Lawrence Baum, Christopher Elmendorf, Edward Foley, Richard Hasen, Kathleen McGraw, Thomas Nelson, and Craig Volden. Additionally, the authors extend a special thank you to Mark Kopko for his assistance in constructing computerized ballot conditions. Earlier versions of this manuscript were presented at the 2009 meetings of the International Society of Political Psychology and the American Political Science Association.

Supplementary material

11109_2010_9133_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3356 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyle C. Kopko
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah McKinnon Bryner
    • 2
  • Jeffrey Budziak
    • 2
  • Christopher J. Devine
    • 2
  • Steven P. Nawara
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceElizabethtown CollegeElizabethtownUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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