Does Ignorance Matter? The Relative Importance of Civic Knowledge and the Human Tendency to Engage in Motivated Reasoning
Keywords:mass political behavior, political knowledge, motivated reasoning, political psychology, partisanship, polarization, same-sex marriage
It has long been understood that political knowledge in the U.S. is very low. For those who care about the quality of American democracy, this is a big problem. In attempting to find a solution, many people often blame education. While increasing civic knowledge is a laudatory goal, increased political sophistication does not necessarily turn individuals into good democratic citizens. Research in cognitive and social psychology paints a picture of people as motivated reasoners. Instead of having an open-minded engagement with issues, individuals typically only seek, see, and understand information in a manner that reinforces what they already believe. Here, we examine motivated reasoning and argue that the strongest partisans and the most committed ideologues will be the most susceptible to holding contradictory policy positions with regard to same-sex marriage and religious freedom.
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