It’s their fault: Partisan attribution bias and its association with voting intentions

Ethan Zell, Christopher A. Stockus, Michael J. Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This research examined how people explain major outcomes of political consequence (e.g., economic growth, rising inequality). We argue that people attribute positive outcomes more and negative outcomes less to their own political party than to an opposing party. We conducted two studies, one before the 2016 U.S. presidential election (N = 244) and another before the 2020 election (N = 249 registered voters), that examined attributions across a wide array of outcomes. As predicted, a robust partisan attribution bias emerged in both studies. Although the bias was largely equivalent among Democrats and Republicans, it was magnified among those with more extreme political ideology. Further, the bias predicted unique variance in voting intentions and significantly mediated the link between political ideology and voting. In sum, these data suggest that partisan allegiances systemically bias attributions in a group-favoring direction. We discuss implications of these findings for emerging research on political social cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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