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Lupia, Levine, Menning, and Sin: Were Bush tax cut supporters simply ignorant

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Lupia, Levine, Menning, and Sin. 2005. Were Bush tax cut supporters 'simply ignorant?' A second look at conservatives and liberals in 'Homer Gets a Tax Cut.' Unpublished.


Bartels (2005) argued in "Homer Gets a Tax Cut" that most of those supporting Bush's 2001 tax cuts were simply ignorant. He regresses political information against support for the tax cuts and finds a statistically significant negative relationship. However, Lupia et al show that Bartels neglected to consider that information has opposite effects depending on ideology/party.

For liberals, it is true that support for Bush's tax cuts when down (significantly) with increasing information. But for conservatives, the opposite was true (but with a weaker relationship). Because information had a stronger effect (slope) on liberals than on conservatives, Bartels found his (spurious) results.

Lupia et al use these results to remind us not to be too quick to conclude that those who disagree with us are simply ignorant. People have reasons for their opinions. Sometimes, we need to look a little harder in order to find those reasons, but we should not assume that people are irrational or ignorant.


Lupia et al replicate Bartels (columns 1 and 2 in table 1), then run the same regression separately for Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and liberals. The find that information has statistically significant, negative effects on support for the tax cuts among Democrats and liberals; but the same variable has weakly positive (not significant) effects among Republicans and conservatives.

Compare Figure 1 (summarizes Bartels) with Figure 2.