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  • Cited by 30
  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: October 2011

7 - The Motivated Construction of Political Judgments


By one point of view, little remains to be said about voting behavior. A variety of models predict electoral behavior rather accurately, both at the individual and at the aggregate level. But from another point of view, forecasting vote outcomes is not enough. Twenty-seven years ago, Kelley and Mirer (1974: 572) observed that “Our ability to predict how voters will vote is far more solidly based than our ability to explain why they vote as they do.” This deficiency, which remains true today, stems from the black box nature of virtually all models of electoral choice, which are based on some form of information processing but are silent about the mechanisms that turn inputs into outputs.

Political psychologists have taken note of the deficiencies of black box models of electoral choice, focusing instead on providing plausible explanations of voting behavior (Boynton and Lodge, 1994; Einhorn, Komorita, and Rosen, 1972; Herstein, 1981; Lodge, McGraw, and Stroh, 1989; Ottati and Wyer, 1990; Rahn, Aldrich, Borgida, and Sullivan, 1990; Taber and Steenbergen, 1995). But this work, our own included, has two key weaknesses. First, we have focused too heavily on the content and structure of beliefs and have paid too little attention to cognitive process. We treat people as passive receptors of information rather than as active, motivated reasoners who interpret information, make inferences, and often choose suboptimally. Second, we have established much too strong a dichotomy between affect and cognition.