Abstract

When multiple government authorities at overlapping levels of administration fail to do their jobs properly, whom do citizens hold responsible? People can potentially make more accurate judgments by taking into account the roles and responsibilities of the officials involved. However, if party identification plays a major role in shaping Americans’ attitudes on federalism, such information may potentially lead to even greater partisan polarization. This article explores these questions using a controlled experiment in which citizens were provided job titles of government officials involved in the poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Both Republican and Democratic citizens update their blame attributions in the same direction in response to new information. Despite polarized general attitudes on federalism, partisans do not polarize further when using specific information.

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