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Rationalizing Conflict: The Polarizing Role of Accountability in Ideological Decision Making

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Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


How does accountability impact political decisions? Though previous research on accountability has demonstrated its potential effects in the realms of business, elections, and more, very little research has explored the effect of citizen accountability in highly ideological, intractable, and political conflicts. This article addresses this issue, looking at the unique interaction between accountability and ideology on Israeli citizens’ political attitudes regarding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The results of two experimental studies in Israel reveal that accountable individuals behave in significantly more ideologically partisan ways than their nonaccountable counterparts. Moreover, this polarization is dependent on the specific conflict context, with leftists more affected by the issue of negotiations and rightists by security concerns. This signals that ideological polarization under accountability may depend on the "issue ownership" each ideological group feels toward the specific conflict context and its corresponding social goal of projecting ideological consistency on these issues.