How Bad is Bad? Dispositional Negativity in Political Judgment

Damarys Canache, Jeffery J. Mondak, Mitchell A. Seligson, Bryce Tuggle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When citizens approach political decision-making tasks, they carry with them differing values and preferences, yielding heterogeneity in their assessments. This study explores one source of variation, the negativity bias, a response tendency in which individuals characteristically react more strongly to highly-salient negative information than to comparable positive information. In political science, most prior research on the negativity bias has been of two forms, either treating the bias as a universal, or seeking to identify correlates of individual-level variation. We advance a third track, one in which the individual-level negativity bias is viewed as a source of heterogeneity in the outcome of judgmental processes. If individual-level variation, labeled here as dispositional negativity, manifests itself in political decision-making, then variation in dispositional negativity may prompt otherwise similar citizens exposed to identical information to produce disparate responses. To explore this, we present a conceptual framework that clarifies the potential role of dispositional negativity in political judgment. Expectations arising from this framework are tested with data from vignette experiments included on two surveys: one with a national sample of Costa Ricans, and a second with respondents from three U.S. states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-935
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Dispositional negativity
  • Evaluative space model
  • Negativity bias
  • Personality traits
  • Political judgments
  • Survey-experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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