Data_Sheet_1_Voter Preferences Reflect a Competition Between Policy and Identity.docx (230.21 kB)
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Data_Sheet_1_Voter Preferences Reflect a Competition Between Policy and Identity.docx

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posted on 15.10.2020, 05:16 by Libby Jenke, Scott A. Huettel

Canonical rational choice models of voter preferences assume that voters select candidates whose policy positions most closely match their own. Yet, much of the electorate often appears to prioritize identity variables (e.g., social categories, group membership) over policy considerations. Here, we report an empirical test of policy-identity interactions using surveys of likely voters conducted in the 24 hours before the 2016 United States presidential election and the 2018 United States senatorial elections. Each respondent indicated not only their policy preferences but also key social group identities and how those identities would be reinforced by voting. We observed striking evidence for a competition between policy and social group identification: For voters who exhibited the maximal effects of identity, policy positions were essentially irrelevant to their candidate preferences. These results account for dissociations between voters’ stated policy preferences and their voting behavior, while linking empirical observations of political behavior to new models derived from psychology and neuroscience.

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