Skip to main content

The Scope of the Partisan 'Perceptual Screen' (WP-13-15)

Georgia Kernell and Kevin Mullinix

While a wealth of literature documents the existence of a partisan ‘perceptual screen’ and discusses individual-level moderators, less attention is devoted to identifying broader political conditions that accentuate or attenuate partisan differences. This article forwards the understanding of partisan motivated reasoning by systematically varying political contexts in a nationally representative survey experiment focused on an increasingly salient issue: vote miscounting. In particular, the authors examine how partisan differences are moderated by situations in which a person’s preferred party has won or lost an election. Additionally, they find that nonpartisan cues play as significant a role as partisan cues in shaping assessments of election counting.  Finally, the study explores whether Independents have a ‘screen’ of their own, and if partisan differences extend to explanations of vote miscounting.  

Georgia Kernell, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Kevin Mullinix, Doctoral Student in Political Science, and Graduate Research Assistant, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Download PDF