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Partisan bias in opinion formation on episodes of political controversy : evidence from Great Britain.

Wagner, Markus and Tarlov, Jessie and Vivyan, Nick (2014) 'Partisan bias in opinion formation on episodes of political controversy : evidence from Great Britain.', Political studies., 62 (1). pp. 136-158.


Voters form judgements about political controversies through a process of motivated reasoning driven by two goals: the desire to reach an objectively accurate conclusion (accuracy) and the desire to reach a conclusion congruent with pre-existing views (direction). The impact of directional goals may depend on political sophistication. We test our hypotheses using data from a 2011 British survey that measured voters' opinions on three specific real-life political controversies. We use voters' underlying tolerance of political misconduct as an indicator of accuracy goals and party identification as a measure of directional goals. We find that partisan predispositions and tolerance of political misconduct are both important in shaping voter opinions and that partisanship has the strongest influence among the more knowledgeable and interested voters. These findings further our understanding of how voters react to political controversies and how they process new political information.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Partisanship, Scandals, Opinion formation, Political ethics, Motivated reasoning.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is the accepted version of the following article: Wagner, M., Tarlov, J. and Vivyan, N. (2014), Partisan Bias in Opinion Formation on Episodes of Political Controversy: Evidence from Great Britain. Political Studies, 62(1): 136-158, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:19 April 2012
Date deposited:30 November 2015
Date of first online publication:March 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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