Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 10 > Issue 4

You Cannot be Serious: The Impact of Accuracy Incentives on Partisan Bias in Reports of Economic Perceptions

Markus Prior, Princeton University, USA, mprior@princeton.edu , Gaurav Sood, independent researcher, gsood07@gmail.com , Kabir Khanna, Princeton University, USA, kkhanna@princeton.edu
Suggested Citation
Markus Prior, Gaurav Sood and Kabir Khanna (2015), "You Cannot be Serious: The Impact of Accuracy Incentives on Partisan Bias in Reports of Economic Perceptions", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 10: No. 4, pp 489-518. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00014127

Publication Date: 17 Dec 2015
© 2015 M. Prior, G. Sood, and K. Khanna
Public opinion,  Political psychology,  Electoral behavior,  Measurement error in survey data


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In this article:
1. Theory and Hypotheses 
2. Research Design, Data, and Measures 
3. Model and Estimation 
4. Results 
5. Conclusion 


When surveyed about economic conditions, supporters of the president's party often report more positive conditions than its opponents. Scholars have interpreted this finding to mean that partisans cannot even agree on matters of fact. We test an alternative interpretation: Partisans give partisan congenial answers even when they have, or could have inferred, information less flattering to the party they identify with. To test this hypothesis, we administered two surveys to nationally representative samples, experimentally manipulating respondents' motivation to be accurate via monetary incentives and on-screen appeals. Both treatments reduced partisan differences in reports of economic conditions significantly. Many partisans interpret factual questions about economic conditions as opinion questions, unless motivated to see them otherwise. Typical survey conditions thus reveal a mix of what partisans know about the economy, and what they would like to be true.