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Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes

  • Ebonya Washington
  • Sendhil Mullainathan

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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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/app.1.1.86
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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
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/aej-applied
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  1. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
  2. 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, vol. 117(3), pages 917-961, August.
  3. Rabin, Matthew, 1994. "Cognitive dissonance and social change," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-194, March.
  4. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-19, June.
  5. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. " Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-46, March.
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