Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 317–335 | Cite as

Motivated Reasoning and Yard-Sign-Stealing Partisans: Mine is a Likable Rogue, Yours is a Degenerate Criminal

  • Ryan L. Claassen
  • Michael J. Ensley
Original Paper


We fielded an experiment in the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study testing the theory that motivated reasoning governs reactions to news about misdeeds on the campaign trail. Treated subjects either encountered a fabricated news story involving phone calls with deceptive information about polling times or one involving disappearing yard signs (the offending party was varied at random). Control subjects received no treatment. We then inquired about how the treated subjects felt about dirty tricks in political campaigns and about all subjects’ trust in government. We find that partisans process information about dirty campaign tricks in a motivated way, expressing exceptional concern when the perpetrators are political opponents. However, there is almost no evidence that partisans’ evaluations of dirty political tricks in turn color other political attitudes, such as political trust.


Election fraud Dirty tricks Public opinion Experiment Trust Cynicism Universal aversion Motivated reasoning 



A previous version of this paper was presented at Panel 22-11: The Experimental Study of Campaigns at the Annual Midwest Political Science Association Meetings in Chicago, IL (April 2013). We would like to thank Ted Carmines and the Center on Congress at Indiana University for allowing us to work with them on the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. The authors would like to thank Casey Dominguez, John Ryan, the anonymous reviewers, and the editor for helpful comments and suggestions. All errors remain the responsibility of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceKent State UniversityKentUSA

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