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Negativity Biases and Political Ideology: A Comparative Test across 17 Countries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 June 2020

PATRICK FOURNIER
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal
STUART SOROKA
Affiliation:
University of Michigan
LILACH NIR
Affiliation:
Hebrew University

Abstract

There is a considerable body of work across the social sciences suggesting negativity biases in human attentiveness and decision-making. Recent research suggests that individual variation in negativity biases is correlated with political ideology: persons who have stronger physiological reactions to negative stimuli, this work argues, hold more conservative attitudes. However, such results have mostly been encountered in the United States. Does the link between psychophysiological negativity biases and political ideology apply elsewhere? We answer this question with the most extensive cross-national psychophysiological study to date. Respondents across 17 countries and six continents were exposed to negative and positive televised news reports and static images. Sensors tracked participants’ skin conductance, and a survey captured their left–right political orientation. Analyses performed at three levels of aggregation—respondent-as-a-case, stimuli-as-a-case, and second-by-second time-series—fail to find strong support for the link between negativity biases and political ideology.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© American Political Science Association 2020

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Footnotes

Acknowledgments: Fournier and Soroka contributed equally to this work. We are grateful to conference participants and colleagues for remarks, many of which were fundamental to the study; we are in particular indebted to Bert Bakker, as well as Vin Arceneaux, André Blais, Ruth Dassonneville, Chris Dawes, Johanna Dunaway, John Hibbing, Peter John Loewen, Kevin Quinn, and Daniel Rubenson. We are grateful to the research coordinators and research assistants at our own and other institutions: Saja Abu-Fani, Maxim Alyukov, Jeremy Adrian, Thiago Barbosa, Alexandre Blanchet, Danin Chen, Yolanda Clatworthy, Lou d’Angelo, Danlin Chen, Veronica Dazzan, Fatou Diop, Thomas Donovan, Marie Fly, Nicole Gileadi, Amanda Hampton, Matthias Heilke, Emma Heffernan, John Jensenius, Gonoi Ken, Saga Khaghani, Robert Lee Vidigal, Ling Liu, Sofie Lovbjerg, Eleonora Marchetti, Radhika Mitra, Alex Nevitte, Hiroki Ogawa, Vijeta Pamnani, Shang Pan, Amma Panin, Andres Parado, Heidi Payter, Martina Perversi, Felipe Torres Raposo, Tea Rosic, Autumn Szczepanski, Alassane Sow, Dominic Valentino, Omer Yair, and Kirill Zhirkov. We have relied on colleagues to help facilitate experiments abroad, and owe special thanks to Michael Bang Petersen, Sharon Barnhardt, Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom, Fatou Binetou Dial, Ray Duch, Vladimir Gelman, Peiran Jiao, Masaru Kohno, Neils Markwat, Johan Martinsson, Gianpietro Mazzoleni, Elin Naurin, Nicholas Sauger, Sergio Splendore, Nurit Tal-Or, Yariv Tsfati, Mathieu Turgeon, and Jack Vowles. Experiments were run using purpose-built software by Bennett Smith, first designed for work with Stephen McAdams and Elisabeth Gidengil; and preliminary work depended on lab space and funding from the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, and from the Hebrew University Halbert Centre. This work is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/MCEFXL.

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