Ideological Asymmetries and the Determinants of Politically Motivated Reasoning

Journal Article (Journal Article)

A large literature demonstrates that conservatives have greater needs for certainty than liberals. This suggests an asymmetry hypothesis: Conservatives are less open to new information that conflicts with their political identity and, in turn, political accountability will be lower on the right than the left. However, recent work suggests that liberals and conservatives are equally prone to politically motivated reasoning (PMR). The present article confronts this puzzle. First, we identify significant limitations of extant studies evaluating the asymmetry hypothesis and deploy two national survey experiments to address them. Second, we provide the first direct test of the key theoretical claim underpinning the asymmetry hypothesis: epistemic needs for certainty promote PMR. We find little evidence for the asymmetry hypothesis. Importantly, however, we also find no evidence that epistemic needs promote PMR. That is, although conservatives report greater needs for certainty than liberals, these needs are not a major source of political bias.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Guay, B; Johnston, CD

Published Date

  • April 1, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 66 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 285 - 301

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1540-5907

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0092-5853

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/ajps.12624

Citation Source

  • Scopus