Skip to main content
×
Home

A Source of Bias in Public Opinion Stability

  • JAMES N. DRUCKMAN (a1), JORDAN FEIN (a1) and THOMAS J. LEEPER (a1)
Abstract

A long acknowledged but seldom addressed problem with political communication experiments concerns the use of captive participants. Study participants rarely have the opportunity to choose information themselves, instead receiving whatever information the experimenter provides. We relax this assumption in the context of an over-time framing experiment focused on opinions about health care policy. Our results dramatically deviate from extant understandings of over-time communication effects. Allowing individuals to choose information themselves—a common situation on many political issues—leads to the preeminence of early frames and the rejection of later frames. Instead of opinion decay, we find dogmatic adherence to opinions formed in response to the first frame to which participants were exposed (i.e., staunch opinion stability). The effects match those that occur when early frames are repeated multiple times. The results suggest that opinion stability may often reflect biased information seeking. Moreover, the findings have implications for a range of topics including the micro–macro disconnect in studies of public opinion, political polarization, normative evaluations of public opinion, the role of inequality considerations in the debate about health care, and, perhaps most importantly, the design of experimental studies of public opinion.

Copyright
Corresponding author
James N. Druckman is Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and Faculty Fellow, Institute of Policy Research, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Scott Hall, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 (druckman@northwestern.edu).
Jordan Fein was an undergraduate student, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Scott Hall, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 (feinjor@gmail.com).
Thomas J. Leeper is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Scott Hall, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 (leeper@u.northwestern.edu).
References
Hide All
Achen Christopher H., and Bartels Larry M.. 2004. “Musical Chairs.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago.
Albertson Bethany, and Lawrence Adria. 2009. “After the Credits Roll.” American Politics Research 37: 275300.
Ansolabehere Stephen D., Rodden Jonathan, and Snyder James M. Jr. 2008. “The Strength of Issues.” American Political Science Review 102 (2): 215–32.
Arceneaux Kevin, and Johnson Martin. 2010. “Does Media Fragmentation Produce Mass Polarization?” Temple University. Unpublished paper.
Barabas Jason, and Jerit Jennifer. 2010. “Are Survey Experiments Externally Valid?American Political Science Review 104 (2): 226–42.
Baron Reuben M., and Kenny David A.. 1986. “The Moderator-Mediator Variable Distinction in Social Psychological Research.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51: 1173–82.
Bartels Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Baum Matthew A., and Groeling Tim. 2009. “Shot by the Messenger.” Political Behavior 31 (2): 157–86.
Bennett W., Lance , and Iyengar Shanto. 2010. “The Shifting Foundations of Political Communication.” Journal of Communication 60 (1): 3539.
Berger Ida E. 1992. “The Nature of Attitude Accessibility and Attitude Confidence.” Journal of Consumer Psychology 1: 103–23.
Blalock Jr., Hubert M. 1979. Social Statistics. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Borah Porismita. 2011. “Seeking More Information and Conversations.” Communication Research 38: 303–25.
Bullock John G., and Ha Shang E.. 2011. “Mediation Analysis is Harder Than it Looks.” In Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science, eds. Druckman James N., Green Donald P., Kuklinski James H., and Arthur Lupia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 508–21.
Cacioppo John T., and Petty Richard E.. 1989. “Effects of Message Repetition on Argument Processing, Recall, and Persuasion.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 10 (1): 312.
Chong Dennis, and Druckman James N.. 2007a. “Framing Public Opinion in Competitive Democracies.” American Political Science Review 101 (4): 637–55.
Chong Dennis, and Druckman James N.. 2007b. “Framing Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 10 (1): 103–26.
Chong Dennis, and Druckman James N.. 2010. “Dynamic Public Opinion.” American Political Science Review 104 (4): 663–80.
Chong Dennis, and Druckman James N.. 2011a.“Identifying Frames in Political News.” In Sourcebook for Political Communication Research, eds. Bucy Erik P. and Holbert R. Lance. New York: Routledge, 238–67.
Chong Dennis, and Druckman James N.. 2011b. “Strategies of Counter-framing.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Political Psychology, Istanbul.
de Vreese Claes H. 2004. “The Effects of Strategic News on Political Cynicism, Issue Evaluations, and Policy Support.” Mass Communication and Society 7 (2): 191214.
DiMaggio Paul, Hargittai Eszter, Celeste Coral, and Shafer Steven. 2004. “Digital Inequality.” In Social Inequality, ed. Neckerman Kathryn. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 355400.
Druckman James N. 2001. “The Implications of Framing Effects for Citizen Competence.” Political Behavior 23: 225–56.
Druckman James N. 2011. “The Politics of Motivation.” Critical Review.
Druckman James N., and Bolsen Toby. 2011. “Framing, Motivated Reasoning, and Opinions about Emergent Technologies.” Journal of Communication 61: 659–88.
Druckman James N., Green Donald P., Kuklinski James H., and Lupia Arthur, eds. 2011. Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Druckman James N., Hennessy Cari Lynn, Charles Kristi St., and Weber Jonathan. 2010. “Competing Rhetoric over Time.” Journal of Politics 72: 136–48.
Druckman James N., and Jacobs Lawrence R.. 2009. “Presidential Responsiveness to Public Opinion.” In The Oxford Handbook of the American Presidency, eds. Edwards III George C. and Howell William G.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 160–81.
Druckman James N., and Kam Cindy D.. 2011. “Students as Experimental Participants.” In Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science, eds. Druckman James N., Green Donald P., Kuklinski James H., and Lupia Arthur. New York: Cambridge University Press, 4157.
Druckman James N., Kuklinski James H., and Sigelman Lee. 2009. “The Unmet Potential of Interdisciplinary Research.” Political Behavior 31 (4): 485510.
Druckman James N., and Leeper Thomas J.. N.d. (a). “Is Public Opinion Stable?” Daedalus. Forthcoming.
Druckman James N., and Leeper Thomas J.. N.d. (b). “Learning More from Political Communication Experiments.” American Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming.
Druckman James N., and Lupia Arthur. 2006. “Mind, Will and Choice.” In The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis, eds. Goodin Robert E. and Tilly Charles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 97131.
Druckman James N., and Nelson Kjersten R.. 2003. “Framing and Deliberation.” American Journal of Political Science 47: 728–44.
Fiorina Morris P., and Abrams Samuel J.. 2008. “Political Polarization in the American Public.” Annual Review of Political Science 11 (1): 563–88.
Gaines Brian J., and Kuklinski James H.. 2011. “Experimental Estimation of Heterogeneous Treatment Effects Related to Self-selection.” American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 724–36.
Gaines Brian J., Kuklinski James H., and Quirk Paul J.. 2007. “The Logic of the Survey Experiment Reexamined.” Political Analysis 15: 120.
Gerber Alan S., Gimpel James G., Green Donald P., and Shaw Daron R.. 2011. “How Large and Long-lasting Are the Persuasive Effects of Televised Campaign Ads?American Political Science Review 105 (1): 135–50.
Green Donald P., and Gerber Alan S.. 2002. “The Downstream Benefits of Experimentation.” Political Analysis 10: 394402.
Hacker Jacob S. 2008. Health at Risk. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hart William, Albarracín Dolores, Eagly Alice H., Brechan Inge, Lindberg Matthew J., and Merill Lisa. 2009. “Feeling Validated versus Being Correct.” Psychological Bulletin 135 (4): 555–88.
Hibbs Douglas A., Jr. 2008. “Implications of the ‘Bread and Peace’ Model for the 2008 Presidential Election.” Public Choice 137: 110.
Hill Seth J., Lo James, Vavreck Lynn, and Zaller John. 2008. “The Duration of Advertising Effects in the 2000 Presidential Campaign.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston.
Holbrook Allyson L., Berent Matthew K., Krosnick Jon A., Visser Penny S., and Boninger David S.. 2005. “Attitude Importance and the Accumulation of Attitude-relevant Knowledge in Memory.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88 (5): 749–69.
Holbrook Allyson L., Krosnick Jon A., Visser Penny S., Gardner Wendi L., and Cacioppo John T.. 2001. “Attitudes toward Presidential Candidates and Political Parties.” American Journal of Political Science 45: 930–50.
Hovland Carl I. 1959. “Reconciling Conflicting Results Derived from Experimental and Survey Studies of Attitude Change.” American Psychologist 14: 817.
Iyengar Shanto. 2010. “Framing Research.” In Winning with Words, eds. Schaffner Brian F. and Sellers Patrick J.. New York: Routledge, 185–91.
Iyengar Shanto, and Hahn Kyu S.. 2009. “Red Media, Blue Media.” Journal of Communication 59: 1939.
Iyengar Shanto, Hahn Kyu S., Krosnick Jon A., and Walker John. 2008. “Selective Exposure to Campaign Communication.” Journal of Politics 70: 186200.
Iyengar Shanto, Kinder Donald R., Peters M.D., and Krosnick Jon A.. 1984. “The Evening News and Presidential Evaluations.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46: 778–87.
Jacobs Lawrence R. 2012 “Barack Obama and the Angry Left.” In Obama at the Crossroads, eds. Jacobs Lawrence R. and King Desmond S.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 181–94.
Jacobs Lawrence R., and Mettler Suzanne. 2011. “Structural Framing.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Seattle.
Jacobs Lawrence R., and Skocpol Theda. 2007. Inequality and American Democracy. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Jacobs Lawrence R., and Skocpol Theda. 2010. Health Care Reform and American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Jerit Jennifer. 2008. “Issue Framing and Engagement.” Political Behavior 30: 124.
Kim Sung-youn, Taber Charles S., and Lodge Milton. 2010. “A Computational Model of the Citizen as Motivated Reasoner.” Political Behavior 32 (1): 128.
Kim Young Mie. 2009. “Issue Publics in the New Information Environment.” Communication Research 36: 254–84.
Krosnick Jon A., and Abelson Robert P.. 1992. “The Case for Measuring Attitude Strength in Surveys.” In Questions about Questions, ed. Tanur Judith M.. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 177202.
Krosnick Jon A., and Smith Wendy A.. 1994. “Attitude Strength.” In Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, ed. Ramachandran V. S.. San Diego: Academic Press, 279–89.
Lacy Dean, and Lewis Michael. 2011. “Does Answering Survey Questions Change How People Think about Political Issues?” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.
Lakoff George. 2004. Don't Think of an Elephant. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.
Lau Richard R., and Redlawsk David P.. 2006. How Voters Decide. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lawrence Eric, Sides John, and Farrell Henry. 2010. “Self-segregation or Deliberation?Perspectives on Politics 8: 141–57.
Lecheler Sophie K., and de Vreese Claes H.. 2010. “What A Difference a Day Made?” University of Amsterdam. Unpublished paper.
Lecheler Sophie K., and de Vreese Claes H.. 2011. “Getting Real.” Journal of Communication 61 (5): 959–83.
Levendusky Matthew S. 2011. “Do Partisan Media Polarize Voters?” University of Pennsylvania. Unpublished paper.
Lodge Milton, and Charles S. Taber. 2000. “Three Steps toward a Theory of Motivated Political Reasoning.” In Elements of Reason, eds. Lupia Arthur, McCubbins Mathew D., and Popkin Samuel L.. New York: Cambridge University Press, 183213.
Lynch Julia, and Gollust Sarah E.. 2010. “Playing Fair.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law 35: 849–87.
Matthes Jörg. 2008. “Media Frames and Political Judgments.” Studies in Communication Sciences 8: 251–78.
Miller Joanne M., and Peterson David A. M.. 2004. “Theoretical and Empirical Implications of Attitude Strength.” Journal of Politics 66: 847–67.
Mitchell Dona-Gene. N.d. “It's About Time.” American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming.
Moons Wesley G., Mackie Diane M., and Garcia-Marques Teresa. 2009. “The Impact of Repetition-induced Familiarity on Agreement with Weak and Strong Arguments.”Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96: 3244.
Murray Keith B. 1991. “A Test of Services Marketing Theory.” Journal of Marketing 55: 1025.
Mutz Diana C., and Reeves Byron. 2005. “The New Videomalaise.” American Political Science Review 99 (1): 115.
Nelson Thomas E., Bryner Sarah McKinnon, and Carnahan Dustin. 2011. “Media and Politics.” In Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science, eds. Druckman James N., Green Donald P., Kuklinski James H., and Lupia Arthur. New York: Cambridge University Press, 201–13.
Nelson Thomas E., Clawson Rosalee A., and Oxley Zoe M.. 1997. “Media Framing of a Civil Liberties Conflict and Its Effect on Tolerance.” American Political Science Review 91: 567–83.
Page Benjamin I., and Shapiro Robert Y.. 1992. The Rational Public. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Payne John W., Bettman James R., and Johnson Eric J.. 1993. The Adaptive Decision Maker. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Prior Markus. 2007. Post-broadcast Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Redlawsk David P., Civettini Andrew J. W., and Emmerson Karen M.. 2010. “The Affective Tipping Point.” Political Psychology 31 (4): 563–93.
Rigby Elizabeth, Soss Joe, Booske Bridget C., Rohan Angela M. K., and Robert Stephanie A.. 2009. “Public Responses to Health Disparities.” Social Science Quarterly 90: 1321–40.
Robert Stephanie A., and Booske Bridget C.. 2011. “U.S. Opinions on Health Determinants and Social Policy as Health Policy.” American Journal of Public Health 101: 1655–63.
Schattschneider E. E. 1960. The Semi-Sovereign People. Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press.
Shapiro Robert Y. 2011. “Public Opinion and Democracy.” Public Opinion Quarterly 75 (5): 9821017.
Sniderman Paul M., and Stiglitz Edward H.. 2012. The Reputational Premium. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sniderman Paul M., and Theriault Sean M.. 2004. “The Structure of Political Argument and the Logic of Issue Framing.” In Studies in Public Opinion, eds. Saris Willem E. and Sniderman Paul M.. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 133–65.
Soroka Stuart N., and Wlezien Christopher. 2010. Degrees of Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Stroud Natalie Jomini. 2011. Niche News. New York: Oxford University Press.
Taber Charles S., and Lodge Milton. 2006. “Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (3): 755–69.
Tewksbury David, Jones Jennifer, Peske Matthew W., Raymond Ashlea, and Vig William. 2000. “The Interaction of News and Advocate Frames.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 77 (4): 804–29.
Visser Penny S., Bizer George Y., and Krosnick Jon A.. 2006. “Exploring the Latent Structure of Strength-Related Attitude Attributes.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, ed. Zanna Mark. P.. San Diego: Academic Press, 167.
Winter Nicholas J. G. 2008. Dangerous Frames. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Zaller John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 24
Total number of PDF views: 196 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 768 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.