In the Eye of the Beholder? Motivated Reasoning in Disputed Elections

Kyle C. Kopko, Elizabethtown College
Sarah Mc Kinnon Bryner, The Ohio State University
Jeffrey Budziak, The Ohio State University
Christopher J. Devine, The Ohio State University
Steven P. Nawara, The Ohio State University


This study uses an experimental design to simulate the ballot counting process during a hand-recount after a disputed election. Applying psychological theories of motivated reasoning to the political process, we find that ballot counters' party identification conditionally influences their ballot counting decisions. Party identification's effect on motivated reasoning is greater when ballot counters are given ambiguous, versus specific, instructions for determining voter intent. This study's findings have major implications for ballot counting procedures throughout the United States and for the use of motivated reasoning in the political science literature. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.