Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 861–882 | Cite as

Attitude Responsiveness and Partisan Bias: Direct Experience with the Affordable Care Act

  • Katherine T. McCabe
Original Paper


This study evaluates the competing influences of motivated reasoning and personal experience on policy preferences toward the Affordable Care Act. Using cross-sectional and panel survey data, the findings reveal that healthcare attitudes are responsive to information that individuals receive through personal experience. Individuals who experienced a positive change in their insurance situation are found to express more positive views toward the health reform law, while individuals who lost their insurance or experienced an otherwise negative personal impact on their insurance situations express more negative views. The results point to personal experience as a source of information that can influence individuals’ preferences. However, although attitudes are responsive to the quality of one’s personal interactions with the healthcare system, the results also suggest that partisan bias is still at work. Republicans are more likely to blame the health reform law for negative changes in their health insurance situations, while Democrats are more likely to credit the law for positive changes in their situations. These motivated attributions for their personal situations temper how responsive partisans’ attitudes are to information acquired through personal experience.


Motivated reasoning Healthcare Public opinion Partisanship Self-interest 



Thank you to Markus Prior, Martin Gilens, Amy Lerman, members of the Princeton Behavior Group, and the anonymous reviewers at Political Behavior for their guidance and helpful feedback. Thank you to the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University for financial support. Replication materials can be found at

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9337_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (380 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 379 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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