Motivated Reasoning and Yard-Sign-Stealing
Partisans: Mine is a Likable Rogue, Yours is
a Degenerate Criminal
Ryan L. Claassen
Michael J. Ensley
Published online: 31 July 2015
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract We ﬁelded an experiment in the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Elec-
tion Study testing the theory that motivated reasoning governs reactions to news about
misdeeds on the campaign trail. Treated subjects either encountered a fabricated news
story involving phone calls with deceptive information about polling times or one
involving disappearing yard signs (the offending party was varied at random). Control
subjects received no treatment. We then inquired about how the treated subjects felt
about dirty tricks in political campaigns and about all subjects’ trust in government.
We ﬁnd that partisans process information about dirty campaign tricks in a motivated
way, expressing exceptional concern when the perpetrators are political opponents.
However, there is almost no evidence that partisans’ evaluations of dirty political
tricks in turn color other political attitudes, such as political trust.
Keywords Election fraud Á Dirty tricks Á Public opinion Á Experiment Á Trust Á
Cynicism Á Universal aversion Á Motivated reasoning
Robocall Indictments: The Cost of Dirty Tricks
Last November on Election Day, thousands of Maryland residents received
automated phone calls assuring them that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley
had already won his race for reelection against former Republican Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. The calls urged listeners to ‘‘relax’’ and stay home to watch the
outcome on TV rather than go out and vote — even though the polls were still
–Editorial, June 16, 2011, Baltimore Sun.
& Ryan L. Claassen
Michael J. Ensley
Department of Political Science, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44236, USA
Polit Behav (2016) 38:317–335