The Electoral Consequences of Policy Justifications

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Principal investigator:

Erik Peterson

Stanford University



Sample size: 2394

Field period: 04/22/2013-10/01/2013


Political candidates regularly communicate their policy positions to the public. These position statements are rarely a simple description of the candidate’s stance on an issue. Rather, candidates typically offer both a positional cue informing the public of what position they taken on an issue and a policy justification stating why they take that position. What consequences do justifications have for public evaluations of these officials?


H1: Holding the quality of justifications fixed, evidence-based justifications should generate increased support among individuals who disagree with a politician’s stance on an issue relative to values-based justifications.

H2: Values-based justifications should generate increased support among individuals who agree with a politician’s stance on an issue to relative to evidence-based justifications.

Experimental Manipulations

The experiment used a 2 X 2 factorial design. Politicians either supported or opposed increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and justified this stance using either evidence-based or values-based justifications.


Support for a politician is measured with a respondent's assessment of the likelihood they would support this candidate in the next election on a 100-pt scale.

Summary of Results

We find that values-based justification generate greater candidate support among respondents who are congruent with the candidate they evaluate while evidence-based justifications perform better among incongruent respondents.


Peterson, Erik and Gabor Simonovits. "Costly Values: Values-Based Justifications Exacerbate the Consequences of Policy Disagreements for Politician Support." Working Paper.