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Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes

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  • Ebonya Washington
  • Sendhil Mullainathan

Abstract

Cognitive dissonance theory predicts that the act of voting for a candidate leads to a more favorable opinion of the candidate in the future. We find support for the empirical relevance of cognitive dissonance to political attitudes. We examine the presidential opinion ratings of voting-age eligibles and ineligibles two years after the president's election. We find that eligibles show two to three times greater polarization of opinions than comparable ineligibles. We find smaller effects when we compare polarization in opinions of senators elected during high turnout presidential campaign years with senators elected during nonpresidential campaign years. (JEL D72)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 1 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 86-111

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:86-111

Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.1.1.86
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  1. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-19, June.
  2. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
  3. Matthew Rabin., 1991. "Cognitive Dissonance and Social Change," Economics Working Papers, University of California at Berkeley 91-180, University of California at Berkeley.
  4. Lena Edlund & Rohini Pande, 2002. "Why Have Women Become Left-Wing? The Political Gender Gap And The Decline In Marriage," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 917-961, August.
  5. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. " Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-46, March.
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