Could Your Candidate Shoot Someone on 5th Avenue and not Lose Votes? Identifying “Lines in the Sand” in Ingroup Candidate Transgressions


  • Kathryn A. Howard
  • Daniel Cervone
  • Matt Motyl


How severely must a political candidate transgress in order to lose votes from supporters? What characteristics motivate people to vote for highly transgressive political candidates? By parametrically varying our novel, ecologically-valid scale of transgression severity across 70 voter-choice trials, the current study modeled the relationship between ingroup candidate transgression severity and voter choice to identify 1) The point of severity at which people abandon political ingroup members and vote for the outgroup, and 2) Ideological differences in this relationship. Across 70 trials, 493 Mturk participants chose to vote for an ingroup candidate or outgroup candidate after learning the ingroup candidate transgressed. A multilevel logistic model revealed the hypothesized relationships: people were more likely to abandon ingroup candidates as transgression severity increased, and participants with a stronger ideological identity were more likely to vote for transgressive ingroup candidates than less-identified individuals. Further, Republicans possessed a higher severity threshold than Democrats, such that they voted for the ingroup candidate for more severe transgressions than Democrats.