Do Leaders Persuade? Field Experiment Evidence of Direct Persuasion by Members of Congress on Their Constituents
Posted: 22 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
Do leaders persuade? A large body of research explores the connection between mass opinion and elite behavior, and on how elected officials interact with their constituents. Yet there is surprisingly little evidence regarding direct interpersonal persuasion by leaders. Here we show that political leaders can persuade their constituents directly on three dimensions: substantive attitudes regarding issues, attributions regarding the leaders’ qualities, and subsequent voting behavior. We ran two field experiments consisting in 21 online town hall meetings with sitting Members of Congress. Study 1 examined 20 small town halls with Representatives (average 22 participants per town hall). Study 2 examined a large (175 person) town hall with a Senator. In both experiments we find that participating has significant and substantively important causal effects on all three dimensions of persuasion, yet no such effects on issues that were not discussed extensively in the sessions.
Keywords: Persuasion, U.S. Congress, Representation, Field Experiment
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