Partisan bias: a mental distortion that leads us to partisanship

In the context of politics, the committed member of a political party is called a “partisan”, “partisan” or “partisan”. In this sense, the bias or partisan bias is the tendency to prefer the proposals of certain parties or political actors to the detriment of others, considering our affinity with the party more than the content of these proposals.

All of the above goes through a process of identification which leads us to take certain positions, and in which different elements are at play that studies on partisan bias have enabled us to know. In this article, we will see what it is.

    What is a partisan or partisan prejudice?

    It is assumed that when we assume an inclination or a position towards a party, it is because we have prioritized and even analyzed in depth its political proposals, regardless of the affinity that the party itself generates for us.

    Partisan bias shows us that in reality the reverse phenomenon usually occurs: all if we don’t realize we tend to be guided more by our identification with the party, and not so much by its political proposals, when we have taken a certain position. . obviously that it ends up being decisive when it comes to developing opinions and making decisions in political activity.

    In fact, scientific research in this context is abundant and has shown how partisanship has a significant influence on individual and collective attitudes and behaviors.

    In contrast, studies with partisan bias have also been observed because this bias it usually infiltrates the media and the information they convey, Benefit certain parties to the detriment of others, especially during an election campaign.

    But how are partisan prejudices generated? Do some people express it and others don’t? Does identification with the party and our political position pass through a purely rational mechanism? or are they mediated by an affective and emotional dimension? We will see below some proposals to answer these questions.

      Identification and partisanship: how is this bias generated?

      As we have said, studies of partisan or partisan bias have shown how people tend to sympathize with the proposals of the parties with whom we identify the mostRegardless of the content of the proposal itself.

      This identification refers to the process by which we recognize in the values ​​promoted by a party our own values, desires, interests, expectations, life stories, etc. In other words, the general preferences of a voter are combined with the general positions of a party, which implies an emotional orientation of the individual towards him.

      Research on partisan bias suggests that it stems from attempts to defend a highly valued group identity. In other words, this bias is generated as a psychological mechanism to reduce the anxiety of being at odds with a group in which we feel significant emotional affect. It is the latter that ultimately generates the motivation to follow the party line or position, and leave in the background the very content of their policy.

      As with other group identifications, this process is established from the first moments of our life and from the significant changes that occur in our immediate environment.

      Thus, we tend to approve a priori the policies of a party or a candidate, even without needing an in-depth analysis of these or a process of collation with the policies of other candidates or parties. .

      In the same sense, we tend to reject, also a priori, the proposals of the opposing parties without having reviewed them in depth. All this because it makes it possible to reduce the cognitive effort which would imply being in opposition; it is best to go for any posture that takes the part you prefer.

      A study on emotional orientation

      In a study of physiological responses linked to partisan biases, Michael Bang, Ann Giessing and Jesper Nielsen (2015) analyze the involvement of the affective dimension in the process of identification with a political party within the Danish population. 27 men and 31 women between 19 and 35 years old took part, many of them are affiliated with center-left and center-right political parties.

      In a laboratory, they measured the changes in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (related to emotional and affective activity) of the participants, before the visual presentation of the logos of different parts. They also used partisan signals as advertising sponsors and specific policy proposals.

      Participants were then interviewed to determine whether they actually agreed with the proposals of parties to which they were affiliated or to whom they showed affinities but not necessarily affiliated. In this they found that there was greater approval of policy proposals when participants were affiliated.

      On the other hand, by analyzing the reactions of the sympathetic nervous system to the stimuli presented, they found that the partisan bias only manifested itself in people who showed a strong physiological reaction when exposed to advertising sponsors. We conclude that there is a very important emotional component in the identification with the parties, which ultimately generates a partisan bias.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bang, M., Giessing, A. and Nielsen, J. (2015). Physiological Responses and Partisan Bias: Beyond Self-Reported Party Identification Measures, 10 (5): DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0126922.
      • Bullock, J., Gerber, A., Hill, S., and Huber, G. (2013). Partisanship in de facto beliefs about politics. NBER: Massachusetts.
      • Echeverría, M. (2017). Partisanship in the news media. A methodological and proposed critique. Communication and Society, 30: 217-238.

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