Public Opinion and Voting Behavior

Partisan Political Beliefs and Social Learning



American politics is currently characterized by polarized beliefs about otherwise verifiable realities, a pathology often ascribed to the influence of “echo chambers” on like-minded partisans. Partisans will seek out the views of like-minded individuals for either instrumental reasons, that is, because co-partisans are presumed to know more, or for expressive reasons, to learn or confirm “partisan congenial” beliefs. We conducted an online experiment to characterize the demand for, and use of, social information about political beliefs. There is mistrust across partisan lines but also a willingness to consult social information in pursuit of “correct beliefs.” The further observation that those who do consult peers are not correct more often underscores the importance of reliable private information as a bulwark against some of the pernicious effects of echo chambers.


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