The Point of Political Belief

In Michael Hannon & Jeroen de Ridder (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology (forthcoming)
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An intuitive and widely accepted view is that (a) beliefs aim at truth, (b) many citizens have stable and meaningful political beliefs, and (c) citizens choose to support political candidates or parties on the basis of their political beliefs. We argue that all three claims are false. First, we argue that political beliefs often differ from ordinary world-modelling beliefs because they do not aim at truth. Second, we draw on empirical evidence from political science and psychology to argue that most people lack stable and meaningful political beliefs. Third, we claim that the true psychological basis for voting behavior is not an individual’s political beliefs but rather group identity. Along the way, we reflect on what this means for normative democratic theory.
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