Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Political Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Charles Smith

Second Advisor

Jody Holland

Third Advisor

Michael Henderson

Relational Format



Through motivated reasoning, citizens tend to process information in ways that confirm their prior beliefs. This motivation is seen perhaps most clearly in how voters view the economy -- citizens identifying with the incumbent party view the economy favorably, while those opposed to the incumbent party view the economy unfavorably. Thus, while all citizens exist within the same national economy at a given point in time, they also display wide variations in how they perceive that same economy. This study investigates the role the direction of partisan attachments, levels of political knowledge, and the local economic environment play in the formation of national economic perceptions. The findings show that, first, out-partisans are more prone towards motivated reasoning than in-partisans when evaluating the national economy, both retrospectively and prospectively. Second, the effect of in-party attachments on national economic perceptions becomes stronger with levels of political knowledge, but not for out-partisans. And third, changes in economic performance at the county and state levels shape the effect of in-party identities on economic perceptions, while out-party identities remain mostly isolated from the local economic environment.



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