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Correcting Mistakes: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes in Sweden and the United States

Cognitive dissonance theory predicts that the act of voting makes people more positive toward the party or candidate they have voted for. Following Mullainathan and Washington (2009), I test this prediction by using exogenous variation in turnout provided by the voting age restriction. I improve on previous studies by investigating political attitudes, measured just before elections, when they are highly predictive of voting. In contrast to earlier studies I find no effect of voting on political attitudes. This result holds for a variety of political attitudes and for both Sweden and the United States.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 802.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 22 Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0802
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  1. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. 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.
  3. Sendhil Mullainathan & Ebonya Washington, 2006. "Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Voting," NBER Working Papers 11910, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. George A. Akerlof, 1989. "The Economics Of Illusion," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 1-15, 03.
  5. M. Keith Chen, 2008. "Rationalization and Cognitive Dissonance: Do Choices Affect or Reflect Preferences?," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1669, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "Rational Ignorance versus Rational Irrationality," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(1), pages 3-26.
  7. Bryan Caplan, 2006. "How do voters form positive economic beliefs? Evidence from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 367-381, September.
  8. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  9. Gerber, Alan & Karlan, Dean & Bergan, Daniel, 2006. "Does The Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions," Working Papers 12, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  10. Rabin, Mathew, 1991. "Cognitive Dissonance and Social Change," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt37b169jt, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  11. James Konow, 2000. "Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1072-1091, September.
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