The Electoral Consequences of Elite-Induced Opinion Change

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Principal investigators:

Erik Peterson

Texas A&M University



Gabor Simonovits

Central European University



Sample size: 3115

Field period: 02/17/2016-06/30/2016

What happens after issue frames shape public opinion? We offer an account of the downstream effects of issue frames on candidate choice. We then use three studies combining issue framing experiments with conjoint candidate choice experiments to directly assess these downstream effects. Despite an ideal setting for elite influence on public opinion, we find that frames ultimately have modest effects on how the public later evaluates politicians. Our theoretical framework highlights two sources of this disconnect. Frame-induced opinion change is only one component, often outweighed by other factors, in candidate choice, and the issues most amenable to framing are the least relevant for evaluating candidates. This introduces a new consideration into debates about the political consequences of issue frames. Even after they change the public’s policy opinions, issue frames may still have limited implications for other political outcomes.
H1: Issue Frames will influence policy opinion.
H2: Issue Frames will influence candidate support based on these changed issue opinions.
Experimental Manipulations
Issue Framing Manipulation on Trade and Education Policy.
Candidate Conjoint Manipulation where candidates took different positions on Trade and Education Policy.
Trade and Education Policy Support.
Candidate Approval.
Summary of Results
Issue frames influenced opinion on trade and education policy. These frames had small downstream effects on candidate support in the conjoint experiments.
Peterson, Erik, and Gabor Simonovits. "The Electoral Consequences of Issue Frames." The Journal of Politics 80.4 (2018): 1283-1296.