Base Politics

Kevin Lewis

March 18, 2022

Moral Frames Are Persuasive and Moralize Attitudes; Nonmoral Frames Are Persuasive and De-Moralize Attitudes
Rabia Kodapanakkal et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming 

Moral framing and reframing strategies persuade people holding moralized attitudes (i.e., attitudes having a moral basis). However, these strategies may have unintended side effects: They have the potential to moralize people's attitudes further and as a consequence lower their willingness to compromise on issues. Across three experimental studies with adult U.S. participants (Study 1: N = 2,151, Study 2: N = 1,590, Study 3: N = 1,015), we used persuasion messages (moral, nonmoral, and control) that opposed new big-data technologies (crime-surveillance technologies and hiring algorithms). We consistently found that moral frames were persuasive and moralized people's attitudes, whereas nonmoral frames were persuasive and de-moralized people's attitudes. Moral frames also lowered people's willingness to compromise and reduced behavioral indicators of compromise. Exploratory analyses suggest that feelings of anger and disgust may drive moralization, whereas perceiving the technologies to be financially costly may drive de-moralization. The findings imply that use of moral frames can increase and entrench moral divides rather than bridge them.

(Mis)estimating Affective Polarization
James Druckman et al.
Journal of Politics, forthcoming 

Affective polarization -- the tendency of ordinary partisans to dislike and distrust those from the other party -- is a defining feature of contemporary American politics. High levels of out-party animus stem, in part, from misperceptions of the other party's voters. Specifically, individuals misestimate the ideological extremity and political engagement of typical out-partisans. When partisans are asked about "Democrats" or the "Republican Party," they bring to mind stereotypes of engaged ideologues and, hence, express contempt for the other party. The reality, however, is that such individuals are the exception rather than the norm. We show that when partisans learn that reality, partisan animus falls sharply; partisans do not have much animus toward the typical member of the other party. Our results suggest antidotes or vitiating affective polarization but also complicate understandings of good citizenship. 

From Many Divides, One? The Polarization and Nationalization of American State Party Platforms, 1918-2017
Daniel Hopkins, Eric Schickler & David Azizi
Studies in American Political Development, forthcoming

Many contend that U.S. state parties are increasingly polarized and nationalized, meaning that they have adopted divergent positions matching their national counterparts' positions. Such trends reflect a transformation of America's historically decentralized party system. Yet, the precise timing of these related trends -- as well as the mechanisms underpinning them -- remain unclear. We assess these dynamics using a novel data set of 1,783 state party platforms between 1918 and 2017. Applying tools from automated and manual content analysis, we document a dramatic divergence in the topics emphasized by Democrats and Republicans starting in the mid-1990s, just as congressional speech became polarized. During this period, cross-state differences in each party's agenda decreased and regional/sectoral issues became less prominent, suggesting tight connections between polarization, nationalization, and state agendas. We also find that innovative phrases increasingly debut in state (not national) platforms. Overall, the evidence undercuts claims of top-down polarization emanating from national party leaders in Washington, DC. Polarization at the state and federal levels coincided with the development of an integrated network of activists spanning multiple levels of the polity. 

Threat Rejection Fuels Political Dehumanization
Emily Kubin, Frank Kachanoff & Kurt Gray
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Americans disagree about many things, including what threats are most pressing. We suggest people morally condemn and dehumanize opponents when they are perceived as rejecting the existence or severity of important perceived threats. We explore perceived "threat rejection" across five studies (N = 2,404) both in the real-world COVID-19 pandemic and in novel contexts. Americans morally condemned and dehumanized policy opponents when they seemed to reject realistic group threats (e.g., threat to the physical health or resources of the group). Believing opponents rejected symbolic group threats (e.g., to collective identity) was not reliably linked to condemnation and dehumanization. Importantly, the political dehumanization caused by perceived threat rejection can be soothed with a "threat acknowledgement" intervention.

Partisanship and Support for Restricting the Civil Liberties of Suspected Terrorists
Cora Caton & Kevin Mullinix
Political Behavior, forthcoming

What impacts people's willingness to restrict the civil liberties of suspected terrorists? For decades, social scientists have studied the dynamics that shape political tolerance, and increasingly, scholars examine the effects of terrorism for people's willingness to limit civil liberties in pursuit of security. We argue that the social categorization of a suspected terrorist (e.g., White Nationalist or Islamic Fundamentalist) is consequential for civil liberty attitudes in the United States, but, importantly, we theorize that the effects are contingent on partisanship. We implement question-wording experiments in four surveys. Three of the studies are comprised of national samples implemented at different points in time; a fourth sample incorporates a targeted sample of U.S. military servicemembers. We find evidence that partisanship moderates the effects of terrorist categorization such that Republicans are less likely to restrict the civil liberties of White Nationalists than unspecified suspected terrorists. By contrast, Democrats are more inclined to restrict the civil liberties of White Nationalists. At times, partisanship also moderates the effects of an Islamic Fundamentalist categorization. The study has implications for political tolerance, partisanship, and attitudes toward terrorism in contemporary politics.

Foreign Anti-Mainstream Propaganda and Democratic Publics
Matthias Mader, Nikolay Marinov & Harald Schoen
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Illiberal regimes use overt and covert political communication to influence public opinion in democracies. We present an argument about how such propaganda impacts targeted publics. We posit that effectiveness depends on whether the source of the message is revealed, on the nature of the issue, and on individual characteristics of the recipients. We test these propositions in Germany, in the context of Kremlin messaging, using eight survey experiments administered to a large sample of German voters (n = 2, 303). Citizens who mistrust the government, believe in conspiracy theories, or are generally disconnected from politics are vulnerable to propaganda warfare that involves anti-mainstream messaging, while the rest of the populace is not. At the same time, providing a pro-Western, mainstream viewpoint and outing the Russian source are not generally effective countermeasures. We discuss the implications of illiberal regime communication for information wars between states and for the internal workings of democratic politics.

Exposure to Extremely Partisan News from the Other Political Side Shows Scarce Boomerang Effects
Andreu Casas, Ericka Menchen-Trevino & Magdalena Wojcieszak
Political Behavior, forthcoming

A narrow information diet may be partly to blame for the growing political divides in the United States, suggesting exposure to dissimilar views as a remedy. These efforts, however, could be counterproductive, exacerbating attitude and affective polarization. Yet findings on whether such boomerang effect exists are mixed and the consequences of dissimilar exposure on other important outcomes remain unexplored. To contribute to this debate, we rely on a preregistered longitudinal experimental design combining participants' survey self-reports and their behavioral browsing data, in which one should observe boomerang effects. We incentivized liberals to read political articles on extreme conservative outlets (Breitbart, The American Spectator, and The Blaze) and conservatives to read extreme left-leaning sites (Mother Jones, Democracy Now, and The Nation). We maximize ecological validity by embedding the treatment in a larger project that tracks over time changes in online exposure and attitudes. We explored the effects on attitude and affective polarization, as well as on perceptions of the political system, support for democratic principles, and personal well-being. Overall we find little evidence of boomerang effects.

Political Misinformation and Factual Corrections on the Facebook News Feed: Experimental Evidence
Ethan Porter & Thomas Wood
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

As concerns about the spread of political misinformation have mounted, scholars have found that fact-checks can reduce the extent to which people believe misinformation. Whether this finding extends to social media is unclear. Social media is a high-choice environment in which the cognitive effort required to separate truth from fiction, individuals' penchant for select exposure, and motivated reasoning may render fact checks ineffective. Furthermore, large social media companies have largely refrained from permitting external researchers to administer experiments on their platforms. To investigate whether fact-checking can rebut misinformation on social media, the researchers administered two experiments on large, nationally representative samples using a novel platform designed to mimic Facebook's news feed. The researchers observed corrections having large effects on factual beliefs (.62 on a 5-point scale, p < .001). While misinformation degrades accuracy, their results offer strong evidence that fact-checks increase accuracy, even when tested on realistic simulations of social media platforms. 

Partisan news versus party cues: The effect of cross-cutting party and partisan network cues on polarization and persuasion
Adam Ozer & Jamie Wright
Research & Politics, March 2022

The pervasiveness of partisan media and the 24/7 news cycle allow ample opportunity for partisan-motivated reasoning and selective exposure. Nonetheless, individuals still frequently encounter out-party media outlets and expert pundits through mainstream news and social media. We seek to examine the effects of cross-cutting partisan outlet cues (e.g. Fox News, MSNBC) and direct party cues (e.g. Republican, Democrat) on citizens' perceptions of ideology, source credibility, and news consumption. Using an experiment that pits outlet cues against direct party cues, we find that cross-cutting outlet and direct party cues lead citizens to perceive pundits as more ideologically moderate. As a result, respondents find out-party pundits on in-party outlets to be less biased, increasing interest in the pundits' perspectives. However, while cross-cutting pundits gain among the out-party, they lose among the in-party. This trade-off holds important normative implications for individual news consumption and the ability of outlets and pundits to appear unbiased while garnering the largest possible audience. 

The primary threat: How the surge of ideological challengers is exacerbating partisan polarization
Richard Barton
Party Politics, forthcoming

Despite widespread speculation among pundits and politicians, statistical research finds little evidence that primaries are an important source of polarization in roll call voting. This manuscript moves beyond roll call votes by testing the effects of ideological primary challenges on partisanship in bill co-sponsorship in Congress. Moreover, while extant research generally focuses on the one-to-one effects of primary challenges on the incumbents who experience a challenge, I measure and test the effects of the mere threat of a primary challenge from the ideological extreme. I find that the increased threat of an ideological primary challenge accounts for about one-fourth of the rise in partisanship that occurred from the 1980s to the 2010s. These findings suggest the recent wave of ideological primary challenges is an important source of the escalation and intensification of polarization in recent Congresses. 

Partisan Enclaves and Information Bazaars: Mapping Selective Exposure to Online News
Matthew Tyler, Justin Grimmer & Shanto Iyengar
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Many now believe a segregated online news market has led to increased polarization in the United States. Indeed, experimental studies in political science and psychology show that partisans are more interested in reading attitude-reinforcing information. Yet, observational studies of web browsing behavior have thus far found limited differences between Democratic and Republican online news consumption. We present two new pieces of evidence showing how partisans selectively approach congenial news online. First, using a data set of web-browsing histories from the 2016 US general election (August-November 2016), we show that Democrats (Republicans) split their news consumption between left-leaning (right-leaning) sources and moderate/mainstream sources. Most partisan convergence occurs at portal sites-such as Yahoo and MSN-that specialize in nonnews and nonpolitical content. Second, using high-profile scandals from the 2016 election (Access Hollywood and the Comey letter), we show that partisans consume more news when an event benefits their preferred candidate. 

When Do Sources Persuade? The Effect of Source Credibility on Opinion Change
Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg & Andrew Guess
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming

Discussions around declining trust in the US media can be vague about its effects. One classic answer comes from the persuasion literature, in which source credibility plays a key role. However, existing research almost universally takes credibility as a given. To overcome the potentially severe confounding that can result from this, we create a hypothetical news outlet and manipulate to what extent it is portrayed as credible. We then randomly assign subjects to read op-eds attributed to the source. Our credibility treatments are strong, increasing trust in our mock source until up to 10 days later. We find some evidence that the resulting higher perceived credibility boosts the persuasiveness of arguments about more partisan topics (but not for a less politicized issue). Though our findings are mixed, we argue that this experimental approach can fruitfully enhance our understanding of the interplay between source trust and opinion change over sustained periods.


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