How Do Indifferent Voters Decide? The Political Importance of Implicit Attitudes
A hallmark finding in the study of public opinion is that many citizens approach the political realm with one‐sided attitudes that color their judgments, making attitude change difficult. This finding highlights the importance of citizens with weak prior attitudes, since they might represent a segment of the electorate that is more susceptible to influence. The judgment processes of citizens with weak attitudes, however, are poorly understood. Drawing from dual‐process models in psychology, I test the idea that citizens with weak explicit attitudes rely on implicit attitudes as they render political judgments. I find support for this conjecture in experimental and observational data. There are two main contributions. First, I show that an important and understudied segment of the electorate arrives at political decisions via automatic (but nonetheless predictable) mental processes. Second, I characterize the conditions under which implicit political attitudes matter more and less.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: October 1, 2017