The Causal Effects of Elite Position‐Taking on Voter Attitudes: Field Experiments with Elite Communication

Published on Jan 1, 2017in American Journal of Political Science4.35
· DOI :10.1111/ajps.12243
David E. Broockman13
Estimated H-index: 13
(Stanford University),
Daniel M. Butler14
Estimated H-index: 14
(WashU: Washington University in St. Louis)
Influential theories depict politicians as, alternatively, strongly constrained by public opinion, able to shape public opinion with persuasive appeals, or relatively unconstrained by public opinion and able to shape it merely by announcing their positions. To test these theories, we conducted unique field experiments in cooperation with sitting politicians in which U.S. state legislators sent constituents official communications with randomly assigned content. The legislators sometimes stated their issue positions in these letters, sometimes supported by extensive arguments but sometimes minimally justified; in many cases, these issue positions were at odds with voters’. An ostensibly unrelated survey found that voters often adopted the positions legislators took, even when legislators offered little justification. Moreover, voters did not evaluate their legislators more negatively when representatives took positions these voters had previously opposed, again regardless of whether legislators provided justifications. The findings are consistent with theories suggesting voters often defer to politicians’ policy judgments.
  • References (33)
  • Citations (31)
Published on Jul 1, 2017in The Journal of Politics2.49
G FindleyMichael18
Estimated H-index: 18
Brock Laney1
Estimated H-index: 1
+ 1 AuthorsJ. C. Sharman18
Estimated H-index: 18
By comparing parallel field and survey experiments testing compliance with international standards on corporate transparency, we highlight potential problems in the external validity of survey experimental designs. We performed a field experiment using deception in which we requested an anonymous business incorporation from nearly 4,000 corporate service providers in more than 180 countries. Subsequently, we conducted a survey experiment with the same providers using similar treatment conditions...
Published on Oct 1, 2015in American Journal of Political Science4.35
Michael Tesler8
Estimated H-index: 8
(UCI: University of California, Irvine)
Prior research provides limited insights into when political communications prime or change citizens’ underlying opinions. This article helps fill that void by putting forth an account of priming and opinion change. I argue that crystallized attitudes should often be primed by new information. An influx of attention to less crystallized preferences, however, should lead individuals to alter their underlying opinions in accordance with prior beliefs. Since predispositions acquired early in the li...
Published on Jul 1, 2015in American Journal of Political Science4.35
R GroseChristian12
Estimated H-index: 12
(SC: University of Southern California),
Neil Malhotra25
Estimated H-index: 25
(Stanford University),
Robert P. Van Houweling8
Estimated H-index: 8
(University of California, Berkeley)
Legislators claim that how they explain their votes matters as much as or more than the roll calls themselves. However, few studies have systematically examined legislators’ explanations and citizen attitudes in response to these explanations. We theorize that legislators strategically tailor explanations to constituents in order to compensate for policy choices that are incongruent with constituent preferences, and to reinforce policy choices that are congruent. We conduct a within-subjects fie...
William Minozzi8
Estimated H-index: 8
(OSU: Ohio State University),
Michael A. Neblo12
Estimated H-index: 12
(OSU: Ohio State University)
+ 1 AuthorsDavid Lazer35
Estimated H-index: 35
(NU: Northeastern University)
Do leaders persuade? Social scientists have long studied the relationship between elite behavior and mass opinion. However, there is surprisingly little evidence regarding direct persuasion by leaders. Here we show that political leaders can persuade their constituents directly on three dimensions: substantive attitudes regarding policy issues, attributions regarding the leaders’ qualities, and subsequent voting behavior. We ran two randomized controlled field experiments testing the causal effe...
Published on Apr 1, 2014in The Journal of Politics2.49
Timothy J. Ryan7
Estimated H-index: 7
(UM: University of Michigan)
Political scientists commonly distinguish issues that are moral from ones that are not. The distinction is taken to be important for understanding persuadability, the stability of opinions, and issue salience, among other phenomena, but there are inconsistencies in how scholars have conceived it. Drawing insights from psychology, I suggest that it is fruitful to think about moral conviction as a dimension of attitude strength. Using three data sources, I examine how much this perspective contrib...
Published on Jan 1, 2014in Public Opinion Quarterly3.31
Adam J. Berinsky23
Estimated H-index: 23
(MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology),
Gabriel S. Lenz12
Estimated H-index: 12
(MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
In the early 1950s, politicians apparently allowed themselves to be spectators to the anticommunist witch hunt of Senator Joe McCarthy and his supporters, leading to a particularly grim chapter in American politics. In part, they did so because they thought the public supported McCarthy. Although politicians lacked contemporary public opinion data, they apparently inferred McCarthy�s support from key Senate race outcomes. The few senators who initially stood up to McCarthy lost their reelections...
Published on May 23, 2013
Todd Rogers18
Estimated H-index: 18
(Harvard University),
David W. Nickerson21
Estimated H-index: 21
(ND: University of Notre Dame)
Can independent groups change voters' beliefs about an incumbent's positions? And, does reframing how candidates' are perceived by changing beliefs about their positions influence actual vote choices? Past laboratory and observational research suggests that candidate reframing is difficult and of little consequence because the messages must be believed despite competing messages, counter-framing and misinformation. We report the results of a field experiment conducted during a highly competitive...
Published on Aug 1, 2011in American Political Science Review3.90
G BullockJohn8
Estimated H-index: 8
(Yale University)
An enduring concern about democracies is that citizens conform too readily to the policy views of elites in their own parties, even to the point of ignoring other information about the policies in question. This article presents two experiments that suggest an important condition under which the concern may not hold. People are rarely exposed to even modest descriptions of policies, but when they are, their attitudes seem to be affected at least as much by those descriptions as by cues from part...
Published on Jan 1, 2011in Party Politics2.62
Peter John Loewen10
Estimated H-index: 10
Daniel Rubenson6
Estimated H-index: 6
Should party leadership candidates communicate their policy positions to the party’s electorate? And should they do so when their own ideal position is outside their party’s mainstream? This article presents evidence from a field experiment into the communication of controversial policy positions through direct mail. Working with a front-running campaign during the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, we randomly assigned a subset of convention delegates to receive a direct ma...
Cited By31
Published on Sep 5, 2019in West European Politics3.51
Roberto Pannico (University of Lisbon)
AbstractThis article analyses the influence that political parties exert upon citizens’ opinions about European Union issues. By measuring at the same time the content and source effects on politic...
Published on Nov 2, 2017in Party Politics2.62
Eric Guntermann1
Estimated H-index: 1
(UdeM: Université de Montréal),
Eric Guntermann1
Estimated H-index: 1
I show that parties’ positions on issues that are rooted in identity influence people’s opinions even if they lack a party identification. When exposed to competing party positions, citizens adjust their issue opinions to make them more consistent with their preferred party’s position even if they do not identify with that party. In two experiments conducted in Spain, I consider how citizens react to party cues on regional nationalism. Study 1, a laboratory experiment in Catalonia, shows that, w...
Published on May 10, 2019in Legislative Studies Quarterly1.66
Claire Abernathy (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey), Kevin M. Esterling11
Estimated H-index: 11
(UCR: University of California, Riverside)
+ 4 AuthorsJonathan A. Solis (W&M: College of William & Mary)
Published on Feb 25, 2019in South African Journal of Psychology0.78
S. Gordon5
Estimated H-index: 5
Xenophobic violence is a fundamental obstacle to the mental, social, and economic wellbeing of international migrants living and working in South Africa. Currently, there is substantial contention ...
Published on Feb 20, 2019in Policy Studies0.86
Pascal D. König2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Goethe University Frankfurt)
ABSTRACTPolicy research and particularly social policy analysis have increasingly drawn upon the concept of framing. A number of contributions have demonstrated its usefulness for building explanations of policy change and its consequences. However, the adoption of the concept has also been accompanied by a considerable conceptual ambiguity. It is not only understood in quite different ways, at times its use is also rather vague and far removed from a narrow definition of framing. This paper dis...
Published on Feb 18, 2019in Journal of Public Policy1.80
Jennifer M. Connolly3
Estimated H-index: 3
Casey A. Klofstad16
Estimated H-index: 16
+ 1 AuthorsJonathan P. West20
Estimated H-index: 20
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