Means to an end

Kevin Lewis

September 06, 2019

Ideology Justifies Morality: Political Beliefs Predict Moral Foundations
Peter Hatemi, Charles Crabtree & Kevin Smith
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) is employed as a causal explanation of ideology that posits political attitudes are products of moral intuitions. Prior theoretical models, however, suggest the opposite causal path, that is, that moral judgments are driven by political beliefs. In both instances, however, extant research has assumed rather than explicitly tested for causality. So do moral intuitions drive political beliefs or do political beliefs drive moral intuitions? We empirically address this question using data from two panel studies and one nationally representative study, and find consistent evidence supporting the hypothesis that ideology predicts moral intuitions. The findings have significant implications for MFT as a theory of ideology, and also about the consequences of political beliefs for shaping how individuals rationalize what is right and what is wrong.

Compound Political Identity: How Partisan and Racial Identities Overlap and Reinforce
Sean Westwood & Erik Peterson
Dartmouth College Working Paper, July 2019

The standard view conceives of partisan identity as a combination of other social identities that have sorted into alignment over a long time horizon. We develop a new and simpler theory of partisanship that responds to events in real time and does not depend on sorting. In our model of compound political identity, partisanship and race — the major American social cleavage — are so inseparable in the minds of citizens that events which independently trigger one identity also activate the other. We find support for this in three behavioral game experiments with 5,496 respondents. These studies show that changes in affect towards a racial out-group also shift behavioral and attitudinal measures of out-party affect. Conversely, changes in partisan affect spill into out-race affect. Our results suggest that negative partisan affect partially stems from spillovers from racial affect, and that the growth of partisan hostility reinforces racial hostility.

False Memories for Fake News During Ireland’s Abortion Referendum
Gillian Murphy et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

The current study examined false memories in the week preceding the 2018 Irish abortion referendum. Participants (N = 3,140) viewed six news stories concerning campaign events — two fabricated and four authentic. Almost half of the sample reported a false memory for at least one fabricated event, with more than one third of participants reporting a specific memory of the event. “Yes” voters (those in favor of legalizing abortion) were more likely than “no” voters to “remember” a fabricated scandal regarding the campaign to vote “no,” and “no” voters were more likely than “yes” voters to “remember” a fabricated scandal regarding the campaign to vote “yes.” This difference was particularly strong for voters of low cognitive ability. A subsequent warning about possible misinformation slightly reduced rates of false memories but did not eliminate these effects. This study suggests that voters in a real-world political campaign are most susceptible to forming false memories for fake news that aligns with their beliefs, in particular if they have low cognitive ability.

Identifying the Effect of Political Rumor Diffusion Using Variations in Survey Timing
Jin Woo Kim & Eunji Kim
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, July 2019, Pages 293-311

Despite growing concerns about the diffusion of political rumors, researchers often lack the means to estimate their effects. Field experiments seem infeasible due to ethical issues. Survey experiments typically invoke strong assumptions about homogeneous treatment effects across subjects and settings. We argue that exploiting temporal overlap between rumor circulations and survey interviews can be a useful alternative. We focus on an accidental and sudden spread of “Obama-is-a-Muslim” myths in September 2008. Using a difference-in-differences strategy that compares over-time belief changes of those interviewed for the September wave of the 2008-2009 American National Election Studies surveys before the rumor circulation and afterwards, we find that this event increased people's belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim by 4 to 8 percentage points. To rule out various alternative explanations, we show that the treatment and control groups changed in parallel across waves in terms of an extensive set of placebo variables including political knowledge, other political misperception, and general attitudes toward Obama.

Correlations between social dominance orientation and political attitudes reflect common genetic underpinnings
Thomas Haarklau Kleppestø et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 September 2019, Pages 17741-17746

A foundational question in the social sciences concerns the interplay of underlying causes in the formation of people’s political beliefs and prejudices. What role, if any, do genes, environmental influences, or personality dispositions play? Social dominance orientation (SDO), an influential index of people’s general attitudes toward intergroup hierarchy, correlates robustly with political beliefs. SDO consists of the subdimensions SDO-dominance (SDO-D), which is the desire people have for some groups to be actively oppressed by others, and SDO-egalitarianism (SDO-E), a preference for intergroup inequality. Using a twin design (n = 1,987), we investigate whether the desire for intergroup dominance and inequality makes up a genetically grounded behavioral syndrome. Specifically, we investigate the heritability of SDO, in addition to whether it genetically correlates with support for political policies concerning the distribution of power and resources to different social groups. In addition to moderate heritability estimates for SDO-D and SDO-E (37% and 24%, respectively), we find that the genetic correlation between these subdimensions and political attitudes was overall high (mean genetic correlation 0.51), while the environmental correlation was very low (mean environmental correlation 0.08). This suggests that the relationship between political attitudes and SDO-D and SDO-E is grounded in common genetics, such that the desire for (versus opposition to) intergroup inequality and support for political attitudes that serve to enhance (versus attenuate) societal disparities form convergent strategies for navigating group-based dominance hierarchies.

Policy or Partisanship in the United Kingdom? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Brexit
Bryan Schonfeld & Sam Winter-Levy
Princeton Working Paper, August 2019

Are voters motivated by policy preferences or partisan identities? In this paper, we argue that the British Conservative Party's sudden change in Brexit policy (following the surprising result of the 2016 referendum on EU membership) offers a unique opportunity to study partisanship in the context of a natural experiment. Using an interrupted time series design, we find evidence that voters primarily care about policy: Europhilic Conservatives disaffiliated from the party, while Euroskeptics became more likely to identify with the Conservatives. These findings suggest that voters are sufficiently policy-motivated to change parties if they disagree with them on important issues. But we find that partisan identities do play a causal role in the development of voter preferences in other domains: once Euroskeptic voters joined the Conservatives because of the party's stance on European integration, they subsequently adopted more right-wing policy views on redistribution.

Political double standards in reliance on moral foundations
Kimmo Eriksson, Brent Simpson & Pontus Strimling
Judgment and Decision Making, July 2019, Pages 440–454

Prior research using the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) has established that political ideology is associated with self-reported reliance on specific moral foundations in moral judgments of acts. MFQ items do not specify the agents involved in the acts, however. By specifying agents in MFQ items we revealed blatant political double standards. Conservatives thought that the same moral foundation was more relevant if victims were agents that they like (i.e., corporations and other conservatives) but less relevant when the same agents were perpetrators. Liberals showed the same pattern for agents that they like (i.e., news media and other liberals). A UK sample showed much weaker political double standards with respect to corporations and news media, consistent with feelings about corporations and news media being much less politicized in the UK than in the US. We discuss the implications for moral foundations theory.

Which Side Are You On? The Divergent Effects of Protest Participation on Organizations Affiliated with Identity Groups
Giacomo Negro & Susan Olzak
Organization Science, forthcoming

Protest raises the visibility of a social movement, and this affects all organizations affiliated with the movement’s group identity. Although the mutually beneficial relationship between protest and social movement organizations is well documented, we argue that protest does not necessarily aid other, more mundane types of affiliated organizations in the same manner. Specifically, we expect that increases in protest participation will favor the viability of organizations targeting an audience close to the group identity but not of organizations with an audience in which some members share that identity and others do not. We evaluate these claims using a data set of pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) protest events and local organizations in U.S. cities using a fixed-effects panel design with instrumental variables. Findings show that increases in protest participation decrease the presence of organizations that engage LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ audiences, especially local businesses that simultaneously bridge multiple groups of owners, customers, and clients.

Who Said or What Said? Estimating Ideological Bias in Views Among Economists
Mohsen Javdani & Ha-Joon Chang
University of Cambridge Working Paper, July 2019

There exists a long-standing debate about the influence of ideology in economics. Surprisingly, however, there is no concrete empirical evidence to examine this critical issue. Using an online randomized controlled experiment involving economists in 19 countries, we examine the effect of ideological bias on views among economists. Participants were asked to evaluate statements from prominent economists on different topics, while source attribution for each statement was randomized without participants’ knowledge. For each statement, participants either received a mainstream source, an ideologically different less-/non-mainstream source, or no source. We find that changing source attributions from mainstream to less-/non-mainstream, or removing them, significantly reduces economists’ reported agreement with statements. This contradicts the image economists have of themselves, with 82% of participants reporting that in evaluating a statement one should only pay attention to its content. Using a framework of Bayesian updating we examine two competing hypotheses as potential explanations for these results: unbiased Bayesian updating versus ideologically-/authority-biased Bayesian updating. While we find no evidence in support of unbiased updating, our results are consistent with biased Bayesian updating. More specifically, we find that changing/removing sources (1) has no impact on economists’ reported confidence with their evaluations; (2) similarly affects experts/non-experts in relevant areas; and (3) has substantially different impacts on economists with different political orientations. Finally, we find significant heterogeneity in our results by gender, country, PhD completion country, research area, and undergraduate major, with patterns consistent with the existence of ideological bias.

Conservative Larks, Liberal Owls: The Relationship between Chronotype and Political Ideology
Aleksander Ksiazkiewicz
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Despite its centrality to human life, health, and happiness, sleep has never been a central topic of concern to political scientists. This paper proposes that chronotype (a person’s time-of-sleep preference) is a previously unidentified psychological correlate of political ideology. Chronotype may lead to political ideology through a motivated social cognitive process, ideology may shape sleep patterns through a desire to align with social norms, or ideology and chronotype may arise from common antecedents, such as genetics, socialization, or community influences. Analyses demonstrate a link between a morningness and conservatism in seven American samples and one British sample. This relationship is robust to controls for Openness, Conscientiousness, and demographics, including age, sex, income, and education. The paper concludes with a call to incorporate sleep and chronotype research into political science across a range of topics and subfields, including political psychology, social networks, political geography, political communication, political institutions, and survey design.

Right-wing ideology and numeracy: A perception of greater ability, but poorer performance
Becky Choma, David Sumantry & Yaniv Hanoch
Judgment and Decision Making, July 2019, Pages 412–422

Right-wing ideology and cognitive ability, including objective numeracy, have been found to relate negatively. Although objective and subjective numeracy correlate positively, it is unclear whether subjective numeracy relates to political ideology in the same way. Replicating and extending previous research, across two samples of American adults (ns= 455, 406), those who performed worse on objective numeracy tasks scored higher on right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) and social dominance orientation (SDO), and they self-identified as more conservative on general, social, and economic continua. Controlling for objective numeracy, subjective numeracy related positively to measures of right-wing ideologies. In other words, those who strongly (vs. weakly) endorsed right-wing ideologies believed they are good with numbers yet performed worse on numeracy tasks. We discuss implications for the opposing direction of associations between ideology with objective versus subjective numeracy and similarities with literature on overconfidence.

Strength of socio-political attitudes moderates electrophysiological responses to perceptual anomalies
Stefan Reiss et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2019

People with strong (vs. moderate) political attitudes have been shown to exhibit less phasic reactivity to perceptual anomalies, presumably to prevent their committed meaning systems from being challenged by novel experiences. Several researchers have proposed that (but not tested whether) firmly committed individuals also engage in more attentional suppression of anomalies, likely mediated by prestimulus alpha power. We expected participants with strong (vs. moderate) political attitudes to display increased pre-stimulus alpha power when processing perceptual anomalies. We recorded electrophysiological activity during the presentation of normal cards (control group) or both normal and anomalous playing cards (experimental group; total N = 191). In line with our predictions, the presence of anomalous playing cards in the stimulus set increased prestimulus alpha power only among individuals with strong but not moderate political attitudes. As potential markers of phasic reactivity, we also analyzed the late positive potential (LPP) and earlier components of the event-related potential, namely P1, N1, and P300. The moderating effect of extreme attitudes on ERP amplitudes remained inconclusive. Altogether, our findings support the idea that ideological conviction is related to increased tonic responses to perceptual anomalies.


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