The Influence of Public Opinion Polls on Issue Preferences
24 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2014
Date Written: November 30, 2014
We investigate the impact of the polling “bandwagon effect,” which is the tendency for people to modify their beliefs to conform to the majority opinion presented by a poll. While most research on the bandwagon effect centers on voters’ preferences for candidates, we study the impact of polls on public opinion for political issues. Drawing upon social identity theory, we hypothesize that the bandwagon effect impacts those individuals who seek to enhance their connection to their political and national groups. With three unique experiments, we find that strong partisans alter their attitudes to conform to those of their fellow Republicans or Democrats. Interestingly, Americans do not change their attitudes to conform to the opinions of their fellow Americans. We also find that people who change their attitudes appear to be unaware of the influence of the opinion poll.
Keywords: Public Opinion, Polls, Attitudes, Political Behavior, Bandwagon Effect
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