Joshua Robison

Home » Research


Here is a collection of some of my most recent publications. A full list of my publications can be found via my CV, which you access here.

Selected Papers:

  • Robison, Joshua. Forthcoming. “Does Social Disagreement Attneuate Partisan Motivated Reasoning? A Test Case Concerning Economic Evaluations.” British Journal of Political Science.

    Research on partisan motivated reasoning shows that citizens perceive the world differently based upon their partisan allegiances. Here we marshal evidence from several national surveys to investigate whether partisan motivated reasoning is attenuated among partisans situated within disagreeable political discussion networks. While our analyses suggest that exposure to interpersonal disagreement is associated with weaker partisan identities, we find limited evidence that disagreement attenuates partisan differences in knowledge or retrospective evaluations of the economy. This suggests that interpersonal disagreement is unlikely to be an easy panacea for partisan motivated reasoning. Our results thus speak to important debates concerning the influence of social discussion on political attitudes, the nature of partisan motivated reasoning, and the ability of citizens to hold elites accountable.

  • Robison, Joshua and Rune Stubager. Forthcoming. “The Class Pictures in Citizens’ Minds.” British Journal of Sociology.

    Social class has traditionally played a key role in explaining social behaviour and cognition. However, recent analyses have been dominated by the view that the relevance of class for behaviour has dwindled in advanced industrial societies. We contest this view by focusing on the subjective components of class consciousness. Using a national survey of Danish citizens, we show that individuals continue to hold meaningful conceptions of classes, to identify with them and, moreover, to perceive substantial levels of differences between them with these latter beliefs being strongly structured by respondent class identification. These results are all the more intriguing because they stem from a high affluence/low inequality national context that should be a particularly good case for failing to find such rich class perceptions.

  • Robison, Joshua, Thomas Leeper, and James N. Druckman. 2018. “Do Disagreeable Political Discussion Networks Undermine Attitude Strength? Political Psychology [Data]

    How attitudes change and affect behavior depends, in large part, on their strength. Strong attitudes are more resistant to persuasion and are more likely to produce attitude‐consistent behavior. But what influences attitude strength? In this article, we explore a widely discussed, but rarely investigated, factor: an individual’s political discussion network. What prior work exists offers a somewhat mixed picture, finding sometimes that disagreeable networks weaken attitudes and other times that they strengthen attitudes. We use a novel national representative dataset to explore the relationship between disagreeable networks and attitude strength. We find, perhaps surprisingly, no evidence that disagreements in networks affect political attitude strength. We conclude by discussing likely reasons for our findings, which, in turn, provide a research agenda for the study of networks and attitude strength.

  • Robison, Joshua. 2017. “The Role of Elite Accounts in Mitigating the Negative Effects of Repositioning.” Political Behavior. 39(3):609-628 [Data

    Repositioning by political elites plays a key role in a variety of political phenomena, including legislative policymaking and campaigning. While previous studies suggest that repositioning will lead to negative evaluations, these studies have not explored the role of elite communications in structuring mass responses. We argue that this omission is problematic because elite explanations for their actions may limit the costs associated with ‘flip-flopping’ by persuading some citizens to update their attitudes so that they agree with the elite’s new stance and also by molding beliefs about the motives of the elite when repositioning. We present evidence supportive of this argument obtained from two large experiments conducted on samples of American adults. Ultimately, we show that elites offering a satisfactory justification for their change can avoid most, if not all, of the evaluative costs that would otherwise occur. This study thus has important implications not just for this particular element of elite behavior, but also related questions concerning governmental accountability and representation.

  • Robison, Joshua and Kevin Mullinix. 2016. “Elite Polarization and Public Opinion: How Polarization is Communicated and Its Effects.” Political Communication. 33(2):261-282. [Data]

    Elite polarization has reshaped American politics and is an increasingly salient aspect of news coverage within the United States. As a consequence, a burgeoning body of research attempts to unravel the effects of elite polarization on the mass public. However, we know very little about how polarization is communicated to the public by news media. We report the results of one of the first content analyses to delve into the nature of news coverage of elite polarization. We show that such coverage is predominantly critical of polarization. Moreover, we show that unlike coverage of politics focused on individual politicians, coverage of elite polarization principally frames partisan divisions as rooted in the values of the parties rather than strategic concerns. We build on these novel findings with two survey experiments exploring the influence of these features of polarization news coverage on public attitudes. In our first study, we show that criticism of polarization leads partisans to more positively evaluate the argument offered by their non-preferred party, increases support for bi-partisanship, but ultimately does not change the extent to which partisans follow their party’s policy endorsements. In our second study, we show that Independents report significantly less political interest, trust, and efficacy when polarization is made salient and this is particularly evident when a cause of polarization is mentioned. These studies have important implications for our understanding of the consequences of elite polarization—and how polarization is communicated—for public opinion and political behavior in democratic politics