Unresolved Politics: Implicit Ambivalence and Political Cognition

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3 Scopus citations


This paper introduces a novel framework for understanding the relationship between implicit and explicit preferences and political cognition. Existing work in political psychology focuses primarily on comparing the main effects of implicit versus explicit attitude measures. This paper rethinks the role of implicit cognition by acknowledging the correspondence between implicit and explicit preferences (i.e., the distance between implicitly and explicitly measured attitudes). Data from the 2008 American National Election Study are used to examine implicit racial ambivalence, or the gap between one’s implicit and explicit racial preferences, as it exists in the United States. Results indicate implicit racial ambivalence, which has been shown to yield effortful thinking related to race, is negatively related to education and Need for Cognition, and predicts race-related policy attitudes as well as vote choice in the 2008 election. Furthermore, implicit ambivalence moderates the influence of ideology on political attitudes, including attitudes toward outcomes that are only covertly related to race and cannot be predicted directly by implicit or explicit racial attitudes alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-570
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • ANES
  • ambivalence
  • ideology
  • implicit attitudes
  • political cognition
  • racial attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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