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