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Expectations, Vote Choice, and Opinion Stability Since the 2016 Brexit Referendum

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Abstract

Can the UK retain its access to the single market without having to accept the free movement of people? Many Leavers believed that this was a realistic scenario. This analysis shows that expectations about the conditions of a future Brexit deal were strong predictors of the vote choice in the Brexit referendum. Using panel data from the British Election Studies, we additionally investigate how expectations have changed since the Brexit negotiations started. Our findings show that Leavers have become disillusioned over the course of the negotiations. However, these adjustments in expectations have not translated into a shift of opinion in regard to the Brexit vote itself. The implication of this analysis is that the UK electorate is divided in two quite stable, opposing camps.

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Voters in mass elections are notorious for their apparent lack of information about relevant political matters. While some scholars argue that an electorate of well-informed voters is necessary for the production of responsive electoral outcomes, others argue that apparently ignorant voters will suffice because they can adapt their behavior to the complexity of electoral choice. To evaluate the validity of these arguments, I develop and analyze a survey of California voters who faced five complicated insurance reform ballot initiatives. I find that access to a particular class of widely available information shortcuts allowed badly informed voters to emulate the behavior of relatively well informed voters. This finding is suggestive of the conditions under which voters who lack encyclopedic information about the content of electoral debates can nevertheless use information shortcuts to vote as though they were well informed.
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This article challenges the often untested assumption that cognitive "heuristics" improve the decisionmaking abilities of everyday voters. The potential benefits and costs of five common political heuristics are discussed. A new dynamic process-tracing methodology is employed to directly observe the use of these five heuristics by voters in a mock presidential election campaign. We find that cognitive heuristics are at times employed by almost all voters and that they are particularly likely to be used when the choice situation facing voters is complex. A hypothesized interaction between political sophistication and heuristic use on the quality of decision making is obtained across several different experiments, however. As predicted, heuristic use generally increases the probability of a correct vote by political experts but decreases the probability of a correct vote by novices. A situation in which experts can be led astray by heuristic use is also illustrated. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for strategies to increase input from under-represented groups into the political process.
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We propose a model of motivated skepticism that helps explain when and why citizens are biased-information processors. Two experimental studies explore how citizens evaluate arguments about affirmative action and gun control, finding strong evidence of a prior attitude effect such that attitudinally congruent arguments are evaluated as stronger than attitudinally incongruent arguments. When reading pro and con arguments, participants (Ps) counterargue the contrary arguments and uncritically accept supporting arguments, evidence of a disconfirmation bias. We also find a confirmation bias—the seeking out of confirmatory evidence—when Ps are free to self-select the source of the arguments they read. Both the confirmation and disconfirmation biases lead to attitude polarization—the strengthening of t2 over t1 attitudes—especially among those with the strongest priors and highest levels of political sophistication. We conclude with a discussion of the normative implications of these findings for rational behavior in a democracy.
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Context: Misperceptions are a major problem in debates about health care reform and other controversial health issues. Methods: We conducted an experiment to determine if more aggressive media fact-checking could correct the false belief that the Affordable Care Act would create "death panels." Participants from an opt-in Internet panel were randomly assigned to either a control group in which they read an article on Sarah Palin's claims about "death panels" or an intervention group in which the article also contained corrective information refuting Palin. Findings: The correction reduced belief in death panels and strong opposition to the reform bill among those who view Palin unfavorably and those who view her favorably but have low political knowledge. However, it backfired among politically knowledgeable Palin supporters, who were more likely to believe in death panels and to strongly oppose reform if they received the correction. Conclusions: These results underscore the difficulty of reducing misperceptions about health care reform among individuals with the motivation and sophistication to reject corrective information.
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Why are Quebeckers favourably disposed or opposed to sovereignty? This choice partly depends upon the prospective evaluation of the costs and benefits of sovereignty and federalism. What are the relative contributions of economic and linguistic expectations in this choice? Does the impact of these expectations vary according to the time horizon in which they are set? The authors approach these questions from the perspective of the economic theory of voting and with the help of original measures of the determinants of support for sovereignty. They compare expectations of what would occur to the economy and to the French language were Quebec to become a sovereign country with expectations of what would occur if Quebec remained a province of Canada. These measures are taken from a survey of university students. Our logistic regression analysis shows that the implicit calculation of costs and benefits plays a significant role in the choice between sovereignty and federalism, and that economic expectations influence the formation of opinion to a somewhat greater degree than do linguistic expectations. Moreover, medium-term expectations are more important than short-term economic expectations and more important than long-term expectations about the situation of the French language in Quebec. © 1995, Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique. All rights reserved.
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Scholars assume that citizens perform better when they know pertinent facts. Factual beliefs, however, become relevant for political judgments only when people interpret them. Interpretations provide opportunities for partisans to rationalize their existing opinions. Using panel studies, we examine whether and how partisans updated factual beliefs, interpretations of beliefs, and opinions about the handling of the Iraq war as real-world conditions changed. Most respondents held similar, fairly accurate beliefs about facts. But interpretations varied across partisan groups in predictable ways. In turn, interpretations, not beliefs, drove opinions. Perversely, the better informed more effectively used interpretations to buttress their existing partisan views.
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This study investigates how the information environment in the Danish 2000 euro referendum campaign served to crystallize opinion on the issue within the context of a number of other hypothesized influences on the vote, based on previous studies of referendum voting. Our data include a nationally representative two-wave panel survey and a content analysis of news coverage during the referendum campaign. We develop a weighted measure of exposure to news on public and private television channels, that takes into account the volume and tone of the coverage towards the YES and NO campaigns, and using this we find that exposure to public television news significantly influences vote choice when controlling for other predictors. We also find varied levels of support for hypotheses concerning the influence of other key variables such as ideology, economic evaluations, government approval and issue-specific contextual variables. The findings emphasize the importance of considering the information environment during referendum campaigns.