Had the joy of giving two presentations at the 2019 International Communication Association conference in DC. Even the Tuesday session (end of conference) was pleasantly packed.
First presentation focused on a finding where the gender of the author of a political opinion piece was more influential in shaping whether people selected and spent time reading that piece than the stance of its political content! In other words, our cross-partisan identities sometimes matter more than our partisan ones and can foster “reading across party lines.” Work was the product of a collaboration with Dr. Westerwick and Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick, as well as the lab’s talented undergraduate programmers.
My second talk was on belief polarization in response to social exclusion (in collaboration with Dr. Garrett and Dr. Riva). We looked (with a national panel survey) at whether Democrats and Republicans who had just been socially excluded would be more resistant to a political fact check message. The Democrat-targeted message was about Russian tampering with vote counts; the Republican-targeted message was about vote fraud. After exclusion, weaker partisans were just as inaccurate as strong partisans. This both shows that a need to affiliate can drive belief polarization and that even every day social exclusion can have important impacts in a world where news is increasingly consumed on social media.
Lots of good questions at the end of both talks!
Sude, D., Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Robinson, M., & Westerwick, A. (2019). “Pick and choose” opinion climate: How browsing of political messages shapes public opinion perceptions and attitudes. Communication Monographs, 4, 457-478. https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2019.1612528
High-choice media environments allow people to cocoon themselves with like-minded messages (confirmation bias), which could shape both individual attitudes and perceived prevalence of opinions. This study builds on motivated cognition and spiral of silence theory to disentangle how browsing political messages (both selective exposure as viewing full articles and incidental exposure as encountering leads only) shapes perceived public opinion and subsequently attitudes. Participants (N = 115) browsed online articles on controversial topics; related attitudes and public opinion perceptions were captured before and after. Multi-level modeling demonstrated a confirmation bias. Both selective and incidental exposure affected attitudes per message stance, with stronger impacts for selective exposure. Opinion climate perceptions mediated selective exposure impacts on attitudes.