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Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes

Author

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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)

Suggested Citation

  • Ebonya Washington & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2009. "Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 86-111, January.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 917-961.
    2. Rabin, Matthew, 1994. "Cognitive dissonance and social change," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-194, March.
    3. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-319, June.
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1991:81:12:1636-1638_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. "Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-446, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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