Motivated reasoning, prior beliefs, and evidence in the politics of welfare reform

Leire Rincón (UB)

13th november, 13:00h, Aula 8 Facultat de Ciències Polítiques i Sociologia de la UAB or Teams (link)
The introduction of new policy proposals depends largely on public opinion acceptance. But under which conditions will individuals support new policy proposals, and pay attention to new policy ideas to learn more about them? Literature on motivated reasoning suggests that individuals will tend to select information if it’s in line with their prior beliefs, and evaluate information in a way that confirms their priors. We examine whether this is the case, and whether empirical evidence or an individuals’ relation to an issue may alter this reliance of prior beliefs. Our results show that empirical evidence does not have an impact on attention or support, but prior beliefs determine to what extent an individual is wants to learn more about a policy proposal and how likely he/she is of supporting this policy. Crucially, however, it is not that individuals self-select more to information that is in line with prior beliefs. Rather, self-selection occurs regardless of information depending on whether individuals perceive a policy to be effective or not. Those who do, tend to access more all type of information. These findings have important implications for the study of public opinion dynamics and the politics of reform.
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