Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues

47 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2014

See all articles by Alexandra Guisinger

Alexandra Guisinger

Department of Political Science, Temple University

Elizabeth N. Saunders

George Washington University - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 12, 2014

Abstract

When and how do elite messages shape mass opinion on international issues? Debate remains over whether the informational or partisan components of elite cues dominate. To help reconcile the relative influence of these mechanisms, we argue that their influence varies systematically across issues, depending on the baseline distribution of mass opinion on the issues themselves. Two characteristics of underlying opinion are crucial: the share of those not aligned with expert opinion, and the degree of partisan polarization. Where polarization is limited, information effects should dominate, but where issues are polarized, information intake should be limited by partisan attribution. We test these hypotheses using nine survey experiments across a range of issues, including the rise of China, climate change, international institutions, and the use of force. At one extreme, all messages, even those endorsed by generic or opposition experts, can shift opinion; at the other, only partisan-attributed messages matter.

Suggested Citation

Guisinger, Alexandra G. and Saunders, Elizabeth N., Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues (August 12, 2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2453432

Alexandra G. Guisinger (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, Temple University ( email )

409 Gladfelter Hall
1115 Polett Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.temple.edu/guisinger/

Elizabeth N. Saunders

George Washington University - Department of Political Science ( email )

2115 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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