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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 undermine this concern, at least under one important condition. People rarely possess even a modicum of information about policies; but when they do, their attitudes seem to be affected at least as much by that information as by cues from party elites. The experiments also measure the extent to which people think about policy. Contrary to many accounts, they suggest that party cues do not inhibit such thinking. This is not cause for unbridled optimism about citizens’ ability to make good decisions, but it is reason to be more sanguine about their ability to use information about policy when they have it.

John Bullock, Elite Influence on Public Opinion in an Informed Electorate, un-gated PDF for people into that sort of thing. (via ilyagerner)


What kind of abstract is that?!
I’ve read the abstract and the conclusion and still have no idea what the actual experiments were. Is that normal for “political science”? As the paper is 18 pages long, I’m afraid I will have to remain ill-informed!


From what I’ve read, though, I’m led to wonder:

  1. Whether “party cues” are such a bad thing. Is it not essentially trusting someone else’s judgement - based on experience and on (perceived) shared values - on matters that one doesn’t have the time to explore?
  2. Giving people at least “a modicum of information about policies” is super-important, but does the paper suggest (as if the suggestion were needed) that ostensibly non-partisan sources of information - such as the media and think tanks - can have substantial power over public opinion?


And here are some bits of the paper that caught my eye:

A burgeoning body of research suggests that the strength of party cues in other countries depends on the extent to which those countries’ party systems are well-developed. For example, Brader and Tucker (2009a) conducted party-cue experiments in Great Britain, Poland, and Hungary. They find that party cues change policy attitudes most in Great Britain and least in Poland, with Hungary in between—exactly what we would expect if the strength of party cues depends on the extent to which parties have developed clear reputations.

The role of partisanship is most striking: In both experiments, Democrats were far more affected by policy than by party cues, but Republicans were almost equally affected by these factors in Experiment 1 and slightly more affected by party cues in Experiment 2.

[…] More research is required to determine whether these results reflect basic differences between members of different parties. And in general, the possibility of basic partisan differences in political cognition deserves much more attention than it has received.

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Posted at 10:48pm • Permalink  • Tags: Political Science Politics science media
Reblogged (Quote reblogged from ilyagerner)