Findings

Political Attitude

Kevin Lewis

June 21, 2011

Casualties of war and sunk costs: Implications for attitude change and persuasion

John Paul Schott, Laura Scherer & Alan Lambert
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The purpose of the present research was to gain greater insight into how people's support for an ongoing war might be influenced by providing information about recent casualties of war. On intuitive grounds, one might expect that such information might often decrease support for the war, especially when the war in question is relatively unpopular. However, research and theory on the "sunk cost effect" suggests, somewhat paradoxically, that highlighting such losses could actually increase, not decrease, support for the war, as driven by the goal to avoid wasting valuable resources. Across two experiments (one focusing on the war in Iraq, another focusing on the war in Afghanistan), we found that the effects of the war casualties information on attitudes was moderated by a recent use and activation of the relevant "don't waste" goal, which had been previously primed in a non-political context. The implications of our findings for theory and research on attitude change, as well as the judgment and decision making area, are discussed.

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Bringing the President Back In: The Collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Evolution of Retrospective Voting in the 2008 Presidential Election

Thomas Holbrook, Clayton Clouse & Aaron Weinschenk
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Despite prevailing negative conditions,initial analyses of the 2008 presidential election, including this one, find significant but not particularly strong economic voting effects during the fall campaign. In this article, the authors pay special attention to how the economic information context changed during the campaign and how those changes affected the evolution of retrospective voting. The findings show that there were two distinct phases of the fall campaign, that retrospective voting was nonexistent prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers but was strong following the collapse. In effect, the collapse of Lehman Brothers turned the election into a referendum election.

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Red States vs. Blue States: Going Beyond the Mean

Matthew Levendusky & Jeremy Pope
Public Opinion Quarterly, Summer 2011, Pages 227-248

Abstract:
In recent years, many scholars have explored the degree of polarization between red and blue states (red states are those carried by Republicans at the presidential level; blue states are those carried by Democrats). Some claim that red- and blue-state citizens are deeply polarized, while others disagree, arguing that there are only limited differences between the two groups. All previous work on this topic, however, simply uses difference-of-means tests to determine when these two groups are polarized. We show that this test alone cannot determine whether states are actually polarized. We remedy this shortcoming by introducing a new measure based on the degree of issue-position overlap between red- and blue-state citizens. Our findings demonstrate that there is only limited polarization - and a good deal of common ground - between red states and blue states. We discuss the implications of our work both for the study of polarization itself and for the broader study of American politics.

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Language and Ideology in Congress

Daniel Diermeier et al.
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Legislative speech records from the 101st to 108th Congresses of the US Senate are analysed to study political ideologies. A widely-used text classification algorithm - Support Vector Machines (SVM) - allows the extraction of terms that are most indicative of conservative and liberal positions in legislative speeches and the prediction of senators' ideological positions, with a 92 per cent level of accuracy. Feature analysis identifies the terms associated with conservative and liberal ideologies. The results demonstrate that cultural references appear more important than economic references in distinguishing conservative from liberal congressional speeches, calling into question the common economic interpretation of ideological differences in the US Congress.

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The Influence of Foreign Voices on U.S. Public Opinion

Danny Hayes & Matt Guardino
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Public opinion in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War presents a puzzle. Despite the fact that domestic political elites publicly voiced little opposition to the invasion, large numbers of Americans remained opposed to military action throughout the pre-war period, in contrast to the predictions of existing theory. We argue that some rank-and-file Democrats and independents expressed opposition because of the widely reported antiwar positions staked out by foreign, not domestic, elites. Merging a large-scale content analysis of news coverage with public opinion surveys from August 2002 through March 2003, we show that Democrats and independents - especially those with high levels of political awareness - responded to dissenting arguments articulated in the mass media by foreign officials. Our results, which constitute the first empirical demonstration of foreign elite communication effects on U.S. public opinion, show that scholars must account for the role played by non-U.S. officials in prominent foreign policy debates.

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"Deliberative Disagreement" in U.S. Health Policy Committee Hearings

Kevin Esterling
Legislative Studies Quarterly, May 2011, Pages 169-198

Abstract:
The exchange of rationales among debate participants is necessary for legitimacy in a deliberative democracy. I show that witnesses in congressional committee hearings tend to use falsifiable rationales when they encounter moderate levels of disagreement and shift to nonfalsifiable rationales when they encounter extreme disagreement. I use data from a coding of hearings testimony on the Medicare program, held between 1990 and 2003, as well as from a survey of participating witnesses measuring their perceptions of disagreement at the hearing. The results identify conditions that enhance falsifiable discourse and help to establish the empirical grounding deliberative democratic theory.

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Determinants of Welfare Policy Attitudes: A Contextual Level Analysis

Kristin Abner
Sociological Spectrum, July/August 2011, Pages 466-497

Abstract:
Using the 2008 Chicago Area Study, this article tests how residential context plays a role in welfare policy attitudes, controlling for individual level characteristics. The contextual level variables of household public assistance use and minority concentration in respondents' neighborhoods are tested using multinomial logistic regression analysis. When including controls for education, income, political party, age, employment status, gender, and race, respondents residing in neighborhoods with a higher concentration of African Americans are more likely to endorse positive attitudes toward welfare policy. Additionally, an interaction effect is found between individual level income and household public assistance use in the ZIP code when predicting welfare policy attitudes. Lower income respondents residing in neighborhoods with higher household public assistance use are more likely to endorse positive attitudes toward welfare than their higher income neighbors. Given the exploratory nature of this study, the author concludes with implications for such findings and proposes future research.

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Ecumenicalism Through Constitutionalism: The Discursive Development of Constitutional Conservatism in National Review, 1955-1980

Ken Kersch
Studies in American Political Development, April 2011, Pages 86-116

Abstract:
Contemporary conservatism places an affinity for, fidelity to, and defense of the U.S. Constitution at the center of its electoral, institutional, and movement politics. Through a survey of popular constitutional discourse in postwar conservatism's premiere magazine, National Review between 1955 and 1980 - presented in the context of the development of (conservative) political thought and the institutional infrastructure for idea generation and propagation - I argue that that defense began to assume an ecumenically populist, antielitist, and antijudicial form only beginning in the mid-1950s, and a shared commitment to "originalism" only in the late 1970s. From the 1950s through the late 1970s, conservative constitutional argument was centered not on the judiciary, but rather on the (often divisive) constitutionalism of Congress and the executive, and on divergent views concerning structuralist versus moralist constitutional understandings. Over time, however, through dialogic engagement taking place over and through unfolding political events, the movement's diverse intellectual strands reframed and reinforced their relationship by focusing less on their differences and more on an ecumenically shared populist critique of judicial power emphasizing a virtuous demos arrayed against an ideologically driven, antidemocratic, law-wielding elite. During this formative period, besides advocating a particular approach to textual interpretation, constitutional discourse played a critical role in fashioning movement symbols and signifiers, forming hopes and apprehensions, defining threats and reassurances, marking friends and enemies, stimulating feelings of belonging and alienation, fidelity and betrayal, and evoking both rational logics and intense emotions - all of which motivate and inform the heavily constitutionalized politics of American conservatism today.

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Do Ideologically Intolerant People Benefit From Intergroup Contact?

Gordon Hodson
Current Directions in Psychological Science, June 2011, Pages 154-159

Abstract:
The time-tested notion that increased contact improves intergroup attitudes, particularly under optimal conditions, is well established. Yet early theorists doubted whether contact could benefit intolerant, prejudice-prone persons. Without tackling the question directly, the contemporary contact field embraces an assumption opposed to that of its predecessors: that contact benefits intolerant individuals, given its general effectiveness. However, other prejudice interventions have failed or backfired among such people. Thus, established contact benefits among people generally may mask the failure of such interventions among intolerant people. I review contemporary evidence and conclude that the contact hypothesis retains its prominence among prejudice-reduction strategies: Intergroup contact and friendships work well (and often best) among intolerant and cognitively rigid persons - by reducing threat and anxiety and increasing empathy, trust, and outgroup closeness. Historically untested assumptions about contact have therefore tested favorably. Future imperatives involve directly addressing contemporary criticisms of contact research.

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Inside the Opponent's Head: Perceived Losses in Group Position Predict Accuracy in Metaperceptions Between Groups

Tamar Saguy & Nour Kteily
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Members of groups in conflict typically perceive the same reality in opposing ways. We investigated individuals' ability to accurately perceive out-group members' views of the conflict. Drawing on research on power and metaperceptions, we hypothesized that perceiving losses to in-group position would increase accuracy in predicting out-group members' views. Study 1 was conducted immediately following the Gaza flotilla incident. Israelis, who perceived the event as causing political losses to their group, were more accurate in predicting out-group members' views of the incident than were Palestinians, who perceived the event as causing political gains for their group. Moreover, Israelis' accuracy increased with their perception of political losses for Israel, whereas Palestinians' accuracy decreased with their perception of political gains for Palestinians. These effects were particularly pronounced among those participants who were highly identified with their group. Study 2 replicated the relationship between perceived losses and accuracy, and demonstrated that it could not be accounted for by factors such as education, political orientation, or empathy.

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Committed Dis(s)idents: Participation in Radical Collective Action Fosters Disidentification With the Broader In-Group But Enhances Political Identification

Julia Becker et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research examined the hypothesis that participation in radical, but not moderate, action results in disidentification from the broader in-group. Study 1 (N = 98) was a longitudinal study conducted in the context of student protests against tuition fees in Germany and confirmed that participation in radical collective action results in disidentification with the broader in-group (students) whereas participation in moderate collective action does not. Both types of action increased politicized identification. Study 2 (N = 175) manipulated the normativeness of different types of imagined collective actions in the same context and replicated this disidentification effect for radical actions, but only when this action mismatched the broader in-group's norms. This study also indicated that these effects were partially mediated by perceived lack of solidarity and perceived lack of commitment to the cause among the broader in-group. The implications of these findings for understanding radicalization within social movements are discussed.

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"Don't Know" Means "Don't Know": DK Responses and the Public's Level of Political Knowledge

Robert Luskin & John Bullock
Journal of Politics, April 2011, Pages 547-557

Abstract:
Does the public know much more about politics than conventionally thought? A number of studies have recently argued, on various grounds, that the "don't know" (DK) and incorrect responses to traditionally designed and scored survey knowledge items conceal a good deal of knowledge. This paper examines these claims, focusing on the prominent and influential argument that discouraging DKs would reveal a substantially more knowledgeable public. Using two experimental surveys with national random samples, we show that discouraging DKs does little to affect our picture of how much the public knows about politics. For closed-ended items, the increase in correct responses is large but mainly illusory. For open-ended items, it is genuine but minor. We close by examining the other recent evidence for a substantially more knowledgeable public, showing that it too holds little water.

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Motivating political preferences: Concerns with promotion and prevention as predictors of public policy attitudes

Gale Lucas & Daniel Molden
Motivation and Emotion, June 2011, Pages 151-164

Abstract:
Motivation is an important component of many political decision making theories. However, different definitions of motivation have led to different conclusions as to how influential motivation is on political attitudes. When motivation has been defined in terms of personal interest, its predictive value has been questioned (Sears and Funk in Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 24. Academic Press, New York, pp. 1-91, 1991); however, other motivational variables like Schwartz' (Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 25, Academic Press, New York, pp. 1-65, 1992) values have been found to be strong predictors of such attitudes. This article investigates the influence of another type of motivational variable. Specifically, two studies examined how chronic concerns with fundamental needs for security (i.e., prevention) and growth (i.e., promotion) relate to public policy attitudes. In samples of both college students and nationally representative US households and across a variety of policy areas, stronger prevention concerns predicted support for government intervention to maintain public and personal safety, whereas stronger promotion concerns predicted support for government intervention to ensure opportunities for growth and enrichment.

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Overcoming Ideological Bias in Elections

Vijay Krishna & John Morgan
Journal of Political Economy, April 2011, Pages 183-211

Abstract:
We study a model in which voters choose between two candidates on the basis of both ideology and competence. While the ideology of the candidates is commonly known, voters are imperfectly informed about competence. Voter preferences, however, are such that ideology alone determines voting. When voting is compulsory, the candidate of the majority ideology prevails, and this may not be optimal from a social perspective. However, when voting is voluntary and costly, we show that turnout adjusts endogenously so that the outcome of a large election is always first-best.

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Polarization and Issue Consistency Over Time

Andrew Garner & Harvey Palmer
Political Behavior, June 2011, Pages 225-246

Abstract:
The polarization of the political and social environment over the past four decades has provided citizens with clearer cues about how their core political predispositions (e.g., group interests, core values, and party identification) relate to their issue opinions. A robust and ongoing scholarly debate has involved the different ways in which the more polarized environment affects mass opinion. Using heteroskedastic regression, this paper examines the effect of the increasingly polarized environment on the variability of citizens' policy opinions. We find that citizens today base their policy preferences more closely upon their core political predispositions than in the past. In addition, the predicted error variances also allow us to directly compare two types of mass polarization - issue distance versus issue consistency - to determine the independent effects each has on changes in the distribution of mass opinion.

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A Moral Defense of the 'Moral Values' Voter

Ryan Davis
Political Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
How should citizens in a democracy decide for whom to vote? Liberal political philosophers, following Rawls, have held that voters should think of the candidate as a proxy for the policies he or she will predictably help put in place, and then vote according to which policies are best supported by the balance of public reasons. Call this the proxy model. I reject the proxy model as too restrictive a moral requirement on voting, but accept that citizens are obligated to use some reasons rather than others. In particular, voters should only weigh considerations that are morally relevant. These may include factors like the character of the candidate. I argue that this alternative to the proxy model is more faithful to liberal theory and places a more reasonable set of demands on voters, given what political science has taught us about voting behavior.

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Deliberation from Within: Changing One's Mind During an Interview

Patrick Fournier et al.
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article examines whether a public opinion survey can improve the quality of political attitudes. More specifically, we argue that simply positioning a summary attitudinal question after a balanced series of relevant items can increase people's ability to answer in a way that better reflects their underlying interests, values, and predispositions. By manipulating the location of the vote preference question in two separate national election campaign surveys, we find that there are fewer undecided respondents when the question is asked at the end of the survey rather than early on, that some people are changing their mind during the questionnaire, that a larger set of determinants is structuring late-survey vote choice, and that voting preferences based on the later question are a better predictor of the actual vote. The findings carry important lessons for students of deliberation and of citizen decision making.

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In the Eye of the Beholder? Motivated Reasoning in Disputed Elections

Kyle Kopko et al.
Political Behavior, June 2011, Pages 271-290

Abstract:
This study uses an experimental design to simulate the ballot counting process during a hand-recount after a disputed election. Applying psychological theories of motivated reasoning to the political process, we find that ballot counters' party identification conditionally influences their ballot counting decisions. Party identification's effect on motivated reasoning is greater when ballot counters are given ambiguous, versus specific, instructions for determining voter intent. This study's findings have major implications for ballot counting procedures throughout the United States and for the use of motivated reasoning in the political science literature.

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On either side of a moat? Elite and mass attitudes towards right and wrong

Nicholas Allen & Sara Birch
European Journal of Political Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article develops a cognitive institutionalist account of mass and elite evaluations of political ethics, which is tested on a new dataset from the United Kingdom. The analysis explores the extent of contemporary disagreement among British political elites and those they represent by comparing responses to questions asked in a representative survey of the public with similar questions asked of incumbent MPs and parliamentary candidates. There are systematic differences between members of the public, candidates and MPs at both aggregate and individual levels - differences which can be accounted for with reference to the framing effects of Parliament as an institution. Candidates for parliamentary office display significantly more tolerance of ethically dubious behaviour than other members of the public. Within the elite category, elected MPs exhibit more permissive ethical standards than those candidates who are unsuccessful.

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Attribute Priming Effects and Presidential Candidate Evaluation: The Conditionality of Political Sophistication

Sungtae Ha
Mass Communication and Society, Summer 2011, Pages 315-342

Abstract:
Traditionally, two competing claims have arisen that attempt to explain the role of political sophistication in media effectiveness. I reassess the positive versus negative impacts of political sophistication on media priming effects by considering a curvilinear approach. I combine public opinion data (National Election Studies) on candidate selection criteria in 1992 and 2000 presidential elections with content analyses of campaign news coverage to see which segment of voters at different sophistication levels is most susceptible to media agendas. Quadratic regression analyses reveal that an inverted U-shaped relationship exists between voters' susceptibility to campaign news and their level of political sophistication. Such a curvilinear relationship means that the moderately sophisticated are more likely to accept news agendas than the least or most sophisticated. The findings illuminate the long-standing debate about the inconsistent linear relationships between the two variables, providing a more cogent explanation underlying media priming effects.

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We're Closer than I Thought: Social Network Heterogeneity, Morality, and Political Persuasion

Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom & Lindsey Clark Levitan
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Literature in the area of social networks indicates that increases in perceived social network attitudinal heterogeneity generate increased openness to attitude change. Recent evidence in the area of morality, however, shows that morally based attitudes are particularly resistant to persuasion and can result in the rejection of disagreeing others. Positing that considering morality would reduce network influence, an experiment varied moral cues presented along with a non-network persuasive message while holding the actual content constant. Results demonstrate that morality and network composition interact to predict persuasion, such that when people are not cued to consider morality increased network heterogeneity predicts increased persuasion, but when identical messages are presented in a way that invokes morality the impact of network heterogeneity disappears or even reverses marginally. This interactive effect was replicated in two very different political issues: gay adoption and nationalized healthcare. Implications for persuasion by morally motivated sources independent of the effects of specific moral arguments are discussed.

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The Persistence of Political Partisanship: Evidence from 9/11

Ethan Kaplany & Sharun Mukandz
University of Warwick Working Paper, January 2011

Abstract:
This paper empirically examines whether the act of deciding to support a political party can impact partisan leanings years later. We use the discontinuity in the probability of being registered to vote around the 18th birthday to look at the impact of registration after the 9/11/01 attacks on party of registration. We first show that 9/11 increased Republican registration by approximately 2%. Surprisingly, these differences in registration patterns fully persist over the two year period from 2006 to 2008, even for a group of registrants who moved and changed their registration address. We find full persistence for those registered in zip codes within two miles of a four year university, suggesting that persistence is unlikely to be explained by lack of easy access to or inability to process information. Instead, we suggest an interpretation of our findings based upon either cognitive or social biases.


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