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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Professor Nick Vivyan

Wagner, Markus, Tarlov, Jessie & Vivyan, Nick (2014). Partisan bias in opinion formation on episodes of political controversy: evidence from Great Britain. Political Studies 62(1): 136-158.

Author(s) from Durham


Voters form judgements about political controversies through a process of motivated reasoning driven by two goals: the desire to reach an objectively accurate conclusion (accuracy) and the desire to reach a conclusion congruent with pre-existing views (direction). The impact of directional goals may depend on political sophistication. We test our hypotheses using data from a 2011 British survey that measured voters' opinions on three specific real-life political controversies. We use voters' underlying tolerance of political misconduct as an indicator of accuracy goals and party identification as a measure of directional goals. We find that partisan predispositions and tolerance of political misconduct are both important in shaping voter opinions and that partisanship has the strongest influence among the more knowledgeable and interested voters. These findings further our understanding of how voters react to political controversies and how they process new political information.