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Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
1112 Allen Building
4350 TAMU College Station, Texas 77843-4350

ISTPP Research on Motivated Reasoning and Water Scarcity Presented at SPSA Conference

David Switzer, ISTPP Predoctoral Research Associate, presented, “Local Issue Severity and Ideological Worldviews: Motivated Reasoning in the Case of Water Scarcity” at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, January 7–9, 2016. In this paper, Switzer and his co-author, ISTPP Director Arnold Vedlitz, investigate a theory of motivated reasoning, whereby individuals’ beliefs and worldviews shape their interpretations of the world around them. Motivated reasoning results in individuals being more likely to perceive risk and call for policy action when local issues conform to their worldviews. When local issues do not conform to worldviews, increasing issue severity exerts little effect on risk perceptions and policy support. The researchers test their theory by combining an indicator of water scarcity with data from two national public opinion surveys about water issues and analyze interactive models to predict risk perception and policy preferences. They find that water scarcity drives individuals with opposing ecological worldviews even further apart.