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Partisan Disagreements Arising from Rationalization of Common Information*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 October 2015


Why do opposing partisans sometimes disagree about the facts and processes that are relevant to understanding political issues? One explanation is that citizens may have a psychological tendency toward adopting beliefs about the political world that rationalize their partisan preferences. Previous quantitative evidence for rationalization playing a role in explaining partisan factual disagreement has come from cross-sectional covariation and from correction experiments. In this paper, I argue that these rationalizations can occur as side effects when citizens change their attitudes in response to partisan cues and substantively relevant facts about a political issue. Following this logic, I motivate and report the results of a survey experiment that provides US Republicans and Democrats with information that they will be inclined to rationalize in different ways, because they have different beliefs about which political actors they should agree with. The results are a novel experimental demonstration that partisan disagreements about the political world can arise from rationalization.

Original Articles
© The European Political Science Association 2015 

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Benjamin E. Lauderdale, Associate Professor, Department of Methodology, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE ( In addition to the editors and reviewers of this journal, the author thanks Chris Achen, Larry Bartels, John Bullock, Nick Carnes, Andy Eggers, Sarah Goff, Tali Mendelberg, Markus Prior, Marco Steenbergen and many others for comments on this paper and the various working papers from which it derived. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit


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