Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs About Politics


John G. Bullock, Alan Gerber, Seth J. Hill, Gregory Huber

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Bullock, John G. and Gerber, Alan and Hill, Seth J. and Huber, Gregory (2013). Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs About Politics. NBER Working Paper No. w19080. Available at SSRN:
Partisanship seems to affect factual beliefs about politics. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats are more likely to say that inflation rose under Reagan. We investigate whether such patterns reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead reflect a desire to praise one party or criticize another. We develop a model of partisan survey response and report two experiments that are based on the model. The experiments show that small payments for correct and "don't know" responses sharply diminish the gap between Democrats and Republicans in responses to "partisan" factual questions. The results suggest that the apparent differences in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real.
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Update: This study was published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science in 2015.

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