ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Both liberals and conservatives accuse their political opponents of partisan bias, but is there empirical evidence that one side of the political aisle is indeed more biased than the other? To address this question, we meta-analyzed the results of 51 experimental studies, involving over 18,000 participants, that examined one form of partisan bias—the tendency to evaluate otherwise identical information more favorably when it supports one’s political beliefs or allegiances than when it challenges those beliefs or allegiances. Two hypotheses based on previous literature were tested: an asymmetry hypothesis (predicting greater partisan bias in conservatives than in liberals) and a symmetry hypothesis (predicting equal levels of partisan bias in liberals and conservatives). Mean overall partisan bias was robust (r = .245), and there was strong support for the symmetry hypothesis: Liberals (r = .235) and conservatives (r = .255) showed no difference in mean levels of bias across studies. Moderator analyses reveal this pattern to be consistent across a number of different methodological variations and political topics. Implications of the current findings for the ongoing ideological symmetry debate and the role of partisan bias in scientific discourse and political conflict are discussed.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... It is increasingly the case that the psychological correlates of worldview, voting behavior, and ideological orientation are becoming points of contention in our divided political culture (Baron 2019; Baron et al. 2023;Crawford and Jussim 2018;Ditto et al. 2019;Duarte et al. 2015;Kahan et al. 2017;Stanovich 2017Stanovich , 2021. If psychological studies of this type are increasingly becoming an adjunct of politics, it is important that psychology maintain its credibility as a neutral arbiter-a credibility that has been vastly eroded in recent years by empirical evidence of the ideological bias in our science (Ceci and Williams 2018;Crawford and Jussim 2018;Duarte et al. 2015;Ellis 2020;Haidt 2022;Jussim 2019Jussim , 2022Stanovich 2021). ...
... range with ideology/partisanship, but neither lab finds an indication that AOT itself actually predicts the avoidance of myside bias. Although conservatives score lower on AOT scales, they do not display larger myside bias effects than liberals (Ditto et al. 2019;Guay and Johnston 2022;Stanovich 2021). ...
... All of this is heavy lifting at the individual level, however, and it is sobering to admit that AOT scales do not provide accurate measures of the tendency to avoid myside bias. If we want to get at people's attitudes toward scientific evidence on a contested issue, we actually have to take a domain-specific belief that a person has on the matter, present them with contradictory evidence, and see how they assimilate that contradictory evidence (as some studies have done; see Ditto et al. 2019). You cannot just ask people on a questionnaire whether it is good to pay attention to contradictory evidence. ...
Article
Full-text available
Actively open-minded thinking (AOT) is measured by items that tap the willingness to consider alternative opinions, sensitivity to evidence contradictory to current beliefs, the willingness to postpone closure, and reflective thought. AOT scales are strong predictors of performance on heuristics and biases tasks and of the avoidance of reasoning traps such as superstitious thinking and belief in conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, AOT is most commonly measured with questionnaires rather than performance indicators. Questionnaire contamination becomes even more of a danger as the AOT concept is expanded into new areas such as the study of fake news, misinformation, ideology, and civic attitudes. We review our 25-year history of studying the AOT concept and developing our own AOT scale. We present a 13-item scale that both is brief and accommodates many previous criticisms and refinements. We include a discussion of why AOT scales are such good predictors of performance on heuristics and biases tasks. We conclude that it is because such scales tap important processes of cognitive decoupling and decontextualization that modernity increasingly requires. We conclude by discussing the paradox that although AOT scales are potent predictors of performance on most rational thinking tasks, they do not predict the avoidance of myside thinking, even though it is virtually the quintessence of the AOT concept.
... This perspective flips the common conception of human reasoning on its head and suggests that reasoning often makes people more unreasonable. Consistent with this account, a recent meta-analysis indicated that partisan bias effects (motivated reasoning) were equivalent across the political spectrum (Ditto et al., 2019; but see Baron & Jost, 2019). This research indicates that reasoning is typically (or, at least, frequently) used in service of justifying prior beliefs, as opposed to updating them based on the evidence presented. ...
Article
Full-text available
Does one’s stance toward evidence evaluation and belief revision have relevance for actual beliefs? We investigate the role of endorsing an actively open-minded thinking style about evidence (AOT-E) on a wide range of beliefs, values, and opinions. Participants indicated the extent to which they think beliefs (Study 1) or opinions (Studies 2 and 3) ought to change according to evidence on an 8-item scale. Across three studies with 1,692 participants from two different sources (Mechanical Turk and Lucid for Academics), we find that our short AOT-E scale correlates negatively with beliefs about topics ranging from extrasensory perception, to respect for tradition, to abortion, to God; and positively with topics ranging from anthropogenic global warming to support for free speech on college campuses. More broadly, the belief that beliefs should change according to evidence was robustly associated with political liberalism, the rejection of traditional moral values, the acceptance of science, and skepticism about religious, paranormal, and conspiratorial claims. However, we also find that AOT-E is more strongly predictive for political liberals (Democrats) than conservatives (Republicans). We conclude that socio-cognitive theories of belief (both specific and general) should take into account people’s beliefs about when and how beliefs should change – that is, meta-beliefs – but that further work is required to understand how meta-beliefs about evidence interact with political ideology.
... To begin with we shall examine the case when agents are specified as either liberals or conservatives. Given the extent of political ingroup-outgroup biases (Ditto et al., 2018), this case should be particularly favorable for blatant double standards to be exhibited. After submitting the first version of the present paper we learned of a new paper by Voelkel and Brandt (in press) in which they examined the effect of modifying the MFQ by specifiying the target of acts as either liberals or conservatives (e.g., "whether or not someone acted unfairly towards a conservative person"). ...
Article
Full-text available
Prior research using the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) has established that political ideology is associated with self-reported reliance on specific moral foundations in moral judgments of acts. MFQ items do not specify the agents involved in the acts, however. By specifying agents in MFQ items we revealed blatant political double standards. Conservatives thought that the same moral foundation was more relevant if victims were agents that they like (i.e., corporations and other conservatives) but less relevant when the same agents were perpetrators. Liberals showed the same pattern for agents that they like (i.e., news media and other liberals). A UK sample showed much weaker political double standards with respect to corporations and news media, consistent with feelings about corporations and news media being much less politicized in the UK than in the US. We discuss the implications for moral foundations theory.
... We propose that messages can vary along 4 basic dimensions: social content (social identity cues, including source), factual content (informational value), prescriptive content (behavioral or attitudinal prescription) and format (message framing). Similarly, social psychological research tends to separate the fields investigating how group identity or partisanship shapes information processing (Abrams & Hogg, 1990;Ditto et al., 2019a), how counter-attitudinal messages generate reactance (Belanger et al., 2020, Proulx et al., 2012, how information shapes attitudes (Wood et al., 2019) and how messages framed to fit the recipient's psychological makeup generate more persuasion (e.g. use of narratives, Shaffer et al., 2018). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Although pervasive in our history and modern ecology, propaganda has yet to be formally described by social psychological science. The field has extensively documented the principles of persuasion and social influence, but no integrative synthesis has been attempted to describe the mechanisms of propagandist persuasion. In this paper, we propose to formalize a Fitness-Validation Model (FVM) of propagandist persuasion. This synthetic model assumes that, in essence, influence is proportional to the degree of fit between message characteristics (social content, prescriptive content, descriptive content, framing) and recipients' (group identity, attitudes, knowledge, cognitive makeup). Fitness on these four characteristics then shapes perceptions of thought validity regarding the message, and ultimately behavior change. Thus, we propose that propaganda attempts to maximize fitness between message and recipient characteristics and self-validation in the direction of the message. From the FVM, we then derive five main pathways for propagandist persuasion and dissuasion, which we label the 5D: Deceive social intuition, Divert resistant attitudes, Disrupt information processing, Decoy reasoning and Disturb meta-cognition. The 5D are mutually inclusive and can be seen as the "building blocks" of real-world propaganda. We discuss the theoretical implications of the FVM and conclude the model should be used to craft more effective liberal democratic (counter)propaganda.
Article
Full-text available
Bias can result in partiality in historical accounts and confirmation bias results in statements and characterisations being accepted as factual without reliance on critical tests. This paper provides an example of how a qualitative research technique called ‘nominal group technique’ (NGT) was used in a legal history project to control bias. The observations and conclusions may have a bearing on the part that NGT could play in other areas of legal research and historical research.
Article
Full-text available
O fact-checking é uma prática jornalística muito recente em Portugal. Nenhum estudo até agora procurou entender a atitude do público em relação a este novo fenómeno. Metodologia: este estudo exploratório, com base em um questionário online (N = 618), teve como objetivo investigar a atitude e a perceção dos portugueses em relação ao fact-checking, analisando o efeito das práticas de consumo de informação, os aspetos sociodemográficos e a orientação política dos indivíduos. Os nossos resultados mostram que a maioria é favorável ao fact-checking e está familiarizada com a prática. No entanto, os níveis de familiaridade são reduzidos e estão abaixo do esperado, uma vez que 40 % dos entrevistados não conhecem este género jornalístico. Além disso, encontramos um ceticismo significativo, por parte dos participantes, em relação à ética dos fact-checkers. Corroborando com outros estudos, os jovens e os mais instruídos são mais favoráveis e mais familiarizados com o fact-checking. Ao contrário de outros estudos, os nossos resultados não mostram qualquer efeito da orientação política e ideológica sobre os níveis de aceitação e familiaridade. Este estudo levanta vários desafios relevantes, demonstrando que as pessoas podem não estar tão familiarizadas com o fact-checking como seria de esperar e que existe uma grande desconfiança no rigor e imparcialidade dos fact-checkers, o que pode ser um obst áculo à correção da desinformação.
Article
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged existing health communication strategies as more people turn to social media as a primary health information source. Although many studies have explored how young people use social media, this study examined how sociodemographic factors and political ideology are associated with use and trust in social media as a source for COVID-19 information among young adults, and how use and trust in social media as a COVID-19 information source are associated with their beliefs about COVID-19. In Spring 2021, an online survey was conducted among 2,105 18–29-year-old students at an urban university in California. Our findings show that younger, female, non-binary, Asian, and Black/African American students are most likely to obtain and trust COVID-19 information on social media. Results also suggest that liberal students are more likely to turn to social media as a source for COVID-19 information compared to conservatives. However, conservative students who use social media as a source for information were more likely to believe false health information about prevention measures and the vaccine and to have lower perceived effectiveness of COVID-19 prevention behaviors and vaccination compared to liberals.
Article
The current research investigated (a) if political identity predicts perceived truthfulness of and the intention to share partisan news, and (b) if a media literacy video that warns of misinformation (priming-video) mitigates the partisan bias by enhancing truth discernment. To evaluate if heightened salience of misinformation accounts for the effects of the media literacy intervention, we also tested if recalling prior exposure to misinformation (priming-question) would yield the same results as watching the literacy video does. Two web-based experiments were conducted in South Korea. In Study 1 (N = 384), both liberals and conservatives found politically congenial information more truthful and shareworthy. Although misinformation priming lowered perceived truthfulness and sharing intention of partisan news, such effects were greater for false, rather than true information, thereby improving truth discernment. Study 2 (N = 600) replicated Study 1 findings, except that the misinformation priming lowered perceived truthfulness and the sharing intention across the board, regardless of the veracity of information. Collectively, our findings demonstrate the robust operation of partisan bias in the processing and sharing of partisan news. Misinformation priming aided in the detection of falsehood, but it also induced distrust in reliable information, posing a challenge in fighting misinformation.
Article
Party elites frequently seek to change election rules for their benefit, but these changes do not always align with the democratic principles of the mass public. If party elites are able to influence what the public considers fair, the effectiveness of this public constraint would be limited. This paper tests three possible mechanisms by which this elite influence could function using survey experiments. First, elite cues favoring electoral manipulation could be effective without any appeal to principle. Second, elites could change the public’s perception of whether a given fairness principle applies to a given election rule. Third, elites could directly change which fairness principles people prioritize. I find no evidence that the public is willing to support elites’ explicit attempts at partisan manipulation or that elites are able to directly affect the democratic principles that citizens prioritize. However, elites are able to influence opinion on voting policy issues, regardless of whether the justifying principle they use applies to that policy.
Article
Increasing demographic diversity is undoubtedly important and can aid in debiasing decision makers. Yet, the promises of demographic diversity are not always realized due to social integration problems. We consider why and for whom differences combined with homogeneity make a difference for groups in terms of integratively complex thinking and ideological decision making. Although research has shown that decision makers often rely on political biases, that work has not addressed when and why decision-making groups are able to overcome these biases—a pervasive concern in today’s politically polarized social milieu. Drawing on the common in-group identity model and research on integrative complexity, we theorize that demographic diversity ultimately yields less ideological decision making because it prompts integrative complexity; however, demographic diversity only accrues this benefit in the presence of ideological homogeneity. We also reason that the relationship between integrative complexity and reduced ideological decision making emerges for more conservative (versus more liberal) groups. We find support for our expectations using a natural experiment of judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Supplemental analyses indicate that working within a demographically diverse and ideologically homogeneous group also positively predicts integrative complexity in future decision-making groups. Finally, we find that demographic and ideological diversity can substitute for one another, but no additional integrative complexity benefits accrue when both are present. We discuss implications of this research in light of the ongoing conversation about the value of diversity and today’s polarized political climate. Supplemental Material: The online appendix is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2022.1647 .
Article
Full-text available
The preference for media that confirms prior attitudes and beliefs is problematic in democratic societies based on dialogue and joint deliberation. Over the last decades, partisan selective exposure (PSE) is argued to have increased along with other indices of polarization. We address the question of the increase in PSE, and possible differences by party, ideology and ideological extremity. Using data from the Pew Research Survey, we analyzed self-reported media consumption in 8 nationally representative surveys from the period 2000–2012 (n = 23,381). We relied on previous research on ideological classification of media outlets to conduct confirmatory factor analyses establishing the existence of 2 different variables, conservative and liberal media consumption. We predicted latent variables of media consumption using Item Response Theory models and analyzed the trajectories running latent growth curve models. An unconditional growth model revealed a general and sustained increase in PSE across ideological groups over time. Republicans showed a greater increase over time than did Democrats, after controlling for demographics. Introducing ideological extremity in the model revealed no differences in the trajectories of PSE between liberals and extreme liberals, whereas subjects identified as “very conservative” show a much steeper increase in PSE than any other group, whereas conservatives showed the lowest growth over time. We discuss theoretical implications for ongoing debates about political polarization and ideological asymmetry.
Article
Full-text available
Government agencies around the world have begun to embrace the use of behavioural policy interventions (such as the strategic use of default options), which has inspired vigorous public discussion about the ethics of their use. Since any feasible policy requires some measure of public support, understanding when people find behavioural policy interventions acceptable is critical. We present experimental evidence for a ‘partisan nudge bias’ in both US adults and practising policymakers. Across a range of policy settings, people find the general use of behavioural interventions more ethical when illustrated by examples that accord with their politics, but view those same interventions as more unethical when illustrated by examples at odds with their politics. Importantly, these differences disappear when behavioural interventions are stripped of partisan cues, suggesting that acceptance of such policy tools is not an inherently partisan issue. Our results suggest that opposition to (or support for) behavioural policy interventions should not always be taken at face value, as people appear to conflate their attitudes about general purpose policy methods with their attitudes about specific policy objectives or policy sponsors.
Article
Full-text available
Ideologically committed people are similarly motivated to avoid ideologically crosscutting information. Although some previous research has found that political conservatives may be more prone to selective exposure than liberals are, we find similar selective exposure motives on the political left and right across a variety of issues. The majority of people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate willingly gave up a chance to win money to avoid hearing from the other side (Study 1). When thinking back to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election (Study 2), ahead to upcoming elections in the U.S. and Canada (Study 3), and about a range of other Culture War issues (Study 4), liberals and conservatives reported similar aversion toward learning about the views of their ideological opponents. Their lack of interest was not due to already being informed about the other side or attributable election fatigue. Rather, people on both sides indicated that they anticipated that hearing from the other side would induce cognitive dissonance (e.g., require effort, cause frustration) and undermine a sense of shared reality with the person expressing disparate views (e.g., damage the relationship; Study 5). A high-powered meta-analysis of our data sets (N = 2417) did not detect a difference in the intensity of liberals' (d = 0.63) and conservatives' (d = 0.58) desires to remain in their respective ideological bubbles.
Article
Research on moral judgment has been dominated by rationalist models, in which moral judgment is thought to be caused by moral reasoning. The author gives 4 reasons for considering the hypothesis that moral reasoning does not cause moral judgment; rather, moral reasoning is usually a post hoc construction, generated after a judgment has been reached. The social intuitionist model is presented as an alternative to rationalist models. The model is a social model in that it deemphasizes the private reasoning done by individuals and emphasizes instead the importance of social and cultural influences. The model is an intuitionist model in that it states that moral judgment is generally the result of quick, automatic evaluations (intuitions). The model is more consistent than rationalist models with recent findings in social, cultural, evolutionary, and biological psychology, as well as in anthropology and primatology.
Article
Research on the dispositional origins of political preferences is flourishing, and the primary conclusion drawn from this work is that stronger needs for security and certainty attract people to a broad-based politically conservative ideology. Though this literature covers much ground, most integrative assessments of it have paid insufficient attention to the presence and implications of contingencies in the relationship between dispositional attributes and political attitudes. In this article, we review research showing that relationships between needs for security and certainty and political preferences vary considerably—sometimes to the point of directional shifts—on the basis of (1) issue domain and (2) contextual factors governing the content and volume of political discourse individuals are exposed to. On the basis of this evidence, we argue that relationships between dispositional attributes and political preferences vary in the extent to which they reflect an organic functional resonance between dispositions and preferences or identity-expressive motivation to adopt a political attitude merely because it is discursively packaged with other need-congruent attitudes. We contend that such a distinction is critical to gaining a realistic understanding of the origins and nature of ideological belief systems, and we consequently recommend an increased focus on issue-based and contextual variation in relationships between dispositions and political preferences.
Article
Nam, Jost, and van Bavel (2013) found that conservatives were more likely than liberals to avoid dissonance-arousing situations (viz., writing counter-attitudinal essays in a high-choice situation). A close replication of this original research was unsuccessful, as both liberals and conservatives avoided writing counter-attitudinal essays to similar degrees. We conducted an additional experiment that aimed to conceptually replicate Nam et al. (2013), and to examine whether people whose ideology is threatened might be more likely to avoid dissonance-arousing situations. Again, liberals and conservatives were equally likely to avoid writing counter-attitudinal essays. Threat had no effect on these decisions. A meta-analysis of Nam et al.'s (2013) two studies, the two studies presently reported, and a third supplemental study provide no evidence for asymmetry in dissonance avoidance.
Article
The motivated social cognition and negativity bias perspectives each posit that threat is especially related to political conservatism, such that threat causes people to adopt politically conservative beliefs, and that political conservatives are especially responsive to threatening stimuli. In this review, I argue that there is a kernel of truth to these perspectives, but that they each define both "threat" and "conservatism" too broadly. I review evidence supporting a Compensatory Political Behavior (CPB) Model, which posits that whereas liberals and conservatives are similarly influenced by and responsive to meaning threats, conservatives, and in particular social conservatives, are differentially influenced by and responsive to physical threats. The CPB model suggests that whereas some political beliefs are more deeply rooted in psychological predispositions, others reflect more surface-based ideological motives. I conclude with suggestions for future research to test the model's predictions regarding the relationship between threat and political ideology.
Article
Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the ‘science comprehension thesis’ (SCT), which identifies defects in the public's knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the ‘identity-protective cognition thesis’ (ICT), which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science. In our experiment, we presented subjects with a difficult problem that turned on their ability to draw valid causal inferences from empirical data. As expected, subjects highest in numeracy – a measure of the ability and disposition to make use of quantitative information – did substantially better than less numerate ones when the data were presented as results from a study of a new skin rash treatment. Also as expected, subjects’ responses became politically polarized – and even less accurate – when the same data were presented as results from the study of a gun control ban. But contrary to the prediction of SCT, such polarization did not abate among subjects highest in numeracy; instead, it increased . This outcome supported ICT, which predicted that more numerate subjects would use their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks. We discuss the theoretical and practical significance of these findings.
Article
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.