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Does Counter-Attitudinal Information Cause Backlash? Results from Three Large Survey Experiments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2018

Andrew Guess*
Department of Politics, Princeton University
Alexander Coppock
Department of Political Science, Yale University
*Corresponding author. Email:


Several theoretical perspectives suggest that when individuals are exposed to counter-attitudinal evidence or arguments, their pre-existing opinions and beliefs are reinforced, resulting in a phenomenon sometimes known as ‘backlash’. This article formalizes the concept of backlash and specifies how it can be measured. It then presents the results from three survey experiments – two on Mechanical Turk and one on a nationally representative sample – that find no evidence of backlash, even under theoretically favorable conditions. While a casual reading of the literature on information processing suggests that backlash is rampant, these results indicate that it is much rarer than commonly supposed.

© Cambridge University Press 2018

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