Citizens’ motivated reasoning about public performance: experimental findings from the US and Denmark

Martin Baekgaard, Oliver James, Søren Serritzlew, Gregg G.Van Ryzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Recent studies find motivated reasoning in citizens’ processing of information about public performance. Using experiments in the US and Denmark, we examine effects on an accuracy-based task of two forms of motivated reasoning: partisan identity-based reasoning and reasoning from ideology-based governance preferences (favoring either the public or the private sector). The experiments incorporate a political prime, a health care needs prime (to reduce politicization), and a neutral, no-prime, condition. We find that priming citizens to think politically accentuates the influence of partisan identities and governance preferences on reasoning. In contrast, priming about the need for a service reduces these biases. These findings extend knowledge of motivated reasoning in an accuracy-based task and priming with a no-prime benchmark, and confirm some findings of previous studies. Reducing the salience of partisan identities or governance preferences in the presentation of information may help stimulate more accuracy-based reasoning about public performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-204
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Public Management Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Public Administration


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