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Rigid Religious Faith Promotes Selective Exposure to Attitude-Congruent Political Information

A Correction to this article was published on 12 November 2020

This article has been updated

Abstract

When seeking political information, people are motivated to selectively seek information that is congruent with their prior attitudes. However, some individuals may do so more than others, and not much is known about what factors affect such individual differences. Rigid religious faith is one variable that may promote selective exposure. Messages of the importance of rigid faith—the idea that religious beliefs must be held firmly and not doubted—could encourage a habit of selective exposure to information that supports existing religious beliefs. As a side effect, this habit of selective exposure might be applied outside the context of religion. In this study, an information-search task on a non-religious political issue is used to demonstrate that subjects prefer to read a greater number of arguments that are congruent with their prior attitudes on the issue, and this effect of prior attitudes on information-search behavior is found to be stronger among individuals who have rigid religious convictions. A scrambled-sentence task is used to prime half the subjects with religious concepts prior to completing the information-search task. This experiment demonstrates that increased salience of religious faith causes an increase in selective exposure to attitude-congruent political information.

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Change history

  • 12 November 2020

    The original version of this article unfortunately missed to add the "Dependent Variable" note is Table 3 footnote. The note is given below: "The dependent variable is the quantity of pro-gun-control items viewed (which is equal to 8 minus the quantity of anti-gun-control items viewed). Gun-control attitude is a continuous measure ranging from -1 (strongly oppose) to +1 (strongly support). Rigid religious conviction ranges from 0 to 36." The original article has been corrected.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Examination of scatterplots (which can be found in the online appendix) does not suggest any strong non-linear trends in the data, so the analyses in this paper are conducted using linear models.

  2. 2.

    Adding only NFC to the model without adding CRT (alternate model not shown in table) reduces the estimated interactive effect of rigid religious conviction to 0.045. Adding only CRT without NFC reduces the effect to 0.037.

  3. 3.

    Estimating this same model while excluding participants who have very low scores for rigid religious conviction (such as those who have a score of zero or those who have a score lower than some other arbitrary low threshold) produces similar results and only makes the effects appear slightly stronger than those reported here.

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Acknowledgements

John Barry Ryan, Milton Lodge, Stanley Feldman, Paul Djupe, Randy Cragun, Hyun A Kim, Stephen Ceccoli, Joanne Miller, Ryan Cragun, Ryan Claasen.

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Correspondence to James Cragun.

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The original online version of this article was revised: Table 3 footnote was added.

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Cragun, J. Rigid Religious Faith Promotes Selective Exposure to Attitude-Congruent Political Information. Polit Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-020-09650-1

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Keywords

  • Motivated reasoning
  • Selective exposure
  • Confirmation bias
  • Individual differences
  • Religion
  • Faith
  • Beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Information seeking