Discussions about whether citizens can learn and use the information necessary to contribute to democratic governance often focus on debates about heuristics. We argue that the debate over whether heuristics should be used misframes a central issue—the consideration of what forms of decision-making are most likely to operate in different kinds of communication environments. This article examines how people make decisions in contentious political climates, which are characterized by high-information volume, relatively strong partisan commitment, and an affective divide between the opposing camps. Our contribution takes account of the possibility that in contentious environments, political communication offers neither reasoned deliberation nor cues, but rather solidarity signals that engage people's cultural worldviews. We also posit that the use of cultural worldviews for liberals and conservatives is asymmetrical—raising important questions about democracy in a society in which a variety of worldviews have different weights for various individuals and publics. To test our perspective, we analyze public opinion data collected during the time surrounding the recall election of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

You do not currently have access to this content.