Campaigns and the Stability of Political Opinion

James A. Gardner

in What are Campaigns For?

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195392616
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199855438 | DOI:
Campaigns and the Stability of Political Opinion

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Could changes to the laws that regulate campaigns improve them? This chapter addresses this question by reviewing the social science literature on how people arrive at political opinions. This literature demonstrates dramatically that the actual persuasion of voters plays virtually no meaningful role in American election campaigns because it is next to impossible to persuade voters during an election campaign of anything they do not already believe. Several mutually reinforcing phenomena work to stabilize political beliefs and to insulate their holders against the possibility of short-term persuasion during campaigns. These phenomena include cognitive processes that bias voters' attention and comprehension in favor of beliefs they already hold; social reinforcement effects that, through processes of ordinary social interaction, tend to suppress and punish dissident viewpoints; and cognitive information-processing strategies that reduce voters' incentives to seek out and attend to campaign information, or to change their opinions in response to it.

Keywords: campaigns; persuasion; cognitive bias; political opinion; social reinforcement; political information

Chapter.  12898 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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