“Exposure to Opposing Reasons Reduces Negative Impressions of Ideological Opponents”
Matthew L. Stanley, Peter S. Whitehead, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Paul Seli
Duke University


Americans have become increasingly likely to dislike, distrust, and derogate their ideological opponents on contemporary social and political issues. We hypothesized that a lack of exposure
to compelling reasons, arguments, and evidence from ideological opponents might at least partly explain negative views of those opponents. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that
participants assume their ideological opponents, in comparison to their ideological allies, are less likely to have good reasons for their positions. Moreover, we found that the more strongly
participants believe their opponents lack good reasons for their positions, the more likely they are to report that those opponents lack both intellectual capabilities and moral character.
Critically, exposure to arguments favoring their opponents’ position produced more favorable impressions of those opponents. We discuss possible implications of these results for the role of
reasons and reasoning in political discourse, and for productive disagreement in a functioning democracy.