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Do Disagreeable Political Discussion Networks Undermine Attitude Strength? (WP-16-16)

Joshua Robison, Thomas Leeper, and James Druckman

How attitudes change and affect behavior depends, in large part, on their strength. Strong attitudes are more resistant to persuasion and are more likely to produce attitude-consistent behavior. But what influences attitude strength? In this paper, the researchers explore a widely discussed, but rarely investigated, factor: an individual’s political discussion network. What prior work exists offers a somewhat mixed picture, finding sometimes that disagreeable networks weaken attitudes and other times that they strengthen attitudes. The researchers use a novel national representative dataset to explore the relationship between disagreeable networks and attitude strength. They find, perhaps surprisingly, no evidence that disagreements in networks affect political attitude strength. They conclude by discussing likely reasons for the findings, which, in turn, provide a research agenda for the study of networks and attitude strength.

Joshua Robison, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aarhus University

Thomas Leeper, Assistant Professor in Political Behavior, London School of Economics

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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