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What are Campaigns For?The Role of Persuasion in Electoral Law and Politics$
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James A. Gardner

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195392616

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195392616.001.0001

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Campaigns and the Stability of Political Opinion

Campaigns and the Stability of Political Opinion

(p.83) Three Campaigns and the Stability of Political Opinion
What are Campaigns For?

James A. Gardner

Oxford University Press

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

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