Motivated Social Cognition and Ideology: Is Attention to Elite Discourse a Prerequisite for Epistemically Motivated Political Affinities?
Political psychologists have long searched for links between citizens' personality characteristics and their political worldviews. In particular, much research has examined the relationship between epistemic motivation-the needs or motives that lead individuals to acquire and use information in order to construct a view of reality—and ideological self—placement. Most notably, this line of work suggests that the need for closure, or the need for "any firm belief on a given topic, as opposed to confusion and uncertainty" is associated with greater political conservatism. Extending and qualifying this argument, the chapter argues that the connection between epistemic motivation and ideology may depend on the extent to which citizens are familiar enough with key political ideas and debates, as propounded by political elites, to "correctly" select the orientation that satisfies their epistemic needs. Using data from a student and an adult sample, support is found for this hypothesis, demonstrating that the relationship between the need for closure and ideological orientation is stronger among those high in political expertise.
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