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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 33 campaign, general political knowledge and knowledge of the campaign, political discussion, and a wide variety of political attitudes and opinions. One thousand eight hundred and one respondents completed the first baseline (89%), and 1743 completed the second (87%). Both baselines were completed by 1684 respondents, or 84 percent of those who completed consent forms. Cooperation rates were generally similar across the three main groups. Characteristics of the obtained baseline sample were compared with those from a random-digit dial telephone survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center during the same days the Electronic Dialogue 2000 Baseline surveys were in the field (contact rate was 54%; cooperation rate, 57%; eligibility rate, 92%; and final response rate, 30%.). In general, the samples are rather similar; however, the final baseline and discussion group samples for Electronic Dialogue 2000 tend to slightly over-represent males, and to under-represent those with less than a high-school education, non-whites, and – especially – those who have low levels of interest in politics. This is perhaps not surprising in light of the fact that participants agreed to join a year-long project associated with the presidential election campaign – a substantially greater commitment than that generally associated with completing surveys. Organization of the Small-Group Discussions Beginning in April, participants in the main discussion group were invited to attend small group discussions (i.e., 5-10 person), one per month. The intention was to maintain consistent group membership over the course of the campaign. Anticipating far less than perfect attendance, and in order to insure adequate group size, a total of sixty groups were formed, with roughly 15 participants per group. Because groups were to meet live, in real-time, with membership straddling several time zones, a complete listing of participant availability (in the afternoons and evenings, seven days a week) and rank-ordered preference for meeting times was obtained from all respondents. Analysis of these data suggested that 16 timeslots would accommodate over 60 percent of participants’ first choices of meeting times and would meet virtually all availabilities (though for many participants not a top choice). Participants were offered these 16 possible time slots and were requested to choose all timeslots for which they would be available. Final groups, sixty in all, were then constituted. Because of the theoretical interest in the impact of disagreement, composition of the discussion groups was manipulated in order to insure variance in levels of political agreement and opposition. Specifically, three experimental conditions were created: homogeneously liberal groups (n = 20); homogeneously conservative groups (n = 20); and heterogeneous groups constituted of members from across the political spectrum (n = 20). For this purpose, a 7-point party identification scale and a 5-point political ideology scale were combined into a single index, which ranged from –5 (strong Republicans/very conservative), through 0 (independents/ moderates/other centrists), to +5 (strong Democrats/very liberal). Conservative groups were drawn from the lower end of this continuum (the 20 groups averaged –3.09 on the index, with a standard deviation of 1.6); the liberal groups from the upper end (the 20 groups averaged 2.53 with an SD of 1.58); and heterogeneous groups were drawn from the entire continuum (the 20 groups averaged -.33 with an SD of 3.5, more than twice as large as the SD across homogeneous groups).

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
33
campaign, general political knowledge and knowledge of the campaign, political discussion, and
a wide variety of political attitudes and opinions. One thousand eight hundred and one
respondents completed the first baseline (89%), and 1743 completed the second (87%). Both
baselines were completed by 1684 respondents, or 84 percent of those who completed consent
forms. Cooperation rates were generally similar across the three main groups.

Characteristics of the obtained baseline sample were compared with those from a
random-digit dial telephone survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center during the
same days the Electronic Dialogue 2000 Baseline surveys were in the field (contact rate was
54%; cooperation rate, 57%; eligibility rate, 92%; and final response rate, 30%.). In general, the
samples are rather similar; however, the final baseline and discussion group samples for
Electronic Dialogue 2000 tend to slightly over-represent males, and to under-represent those with
less than a high-school education, non-whites, and – especially – those who have low levels of
interest in politics. This is perhaps not surprising in light of the fact that participants agreed to
join a year-long project associated with the presidential election campaign – a substantially
greater commitment than that generally associated with completing surveys.
Organization of the Small-Group Discussions
Beginning in April, participants in the main discussion group were invited to attend small
group discussions (i.e., 5-10 person), one per month. The intention was to maintain consistent
group membership over the course of the campaign. Anticipating far less than perfect
attendance, and in order to insure adequate group size, a total of sixty groups were formed, with
roughly 15 participants per group. Because groups were to meet live, in real-time, with
membership straddling several time zones, a complete listing of participant availability (in the
afternoons and evenings, seven days a week) and rank-ordered preference for meeting times was
obtained from all respondents. Analysis of these data suggested that 16 timeslots would
accommodate over 60 percent of participants’ first choices of meeting times and would meet
virtually all availabilities (though for many participants not a top choice). Participants were
offered these 16 possible time slots and were requested to choose all timeslots for which they
would be available. Final groups, sixty in all, were then constituted.

Because of the theoretical interest in the impact of disagreement, composition of the
discussion groups was manipulated in order to insure variance in levels of political agreement
and opposition. Specifically, three experimental conditions were created: homogeneously liberal
groups (n = 20); homogeneously conservative groups (n = 20); and heterogeneous groups
constituted of members from across the political spectrum (n = 20). For this purpose, a 7-point
party identification scale and a 5-point political ideology scale were combined into a single
index, which ranged from –5 (strong Republicans/very conservative), through 0 (independents/
moderates/other centrists), to +5 (strong Democrats/very liberal). Conservative groups were
drawn from the lower end of this continuum (the 20 groups averaged –3.09 on the index, with a
standard deviation of 1.6); the liberal groups from the upper end (the 20 groups averaged 2.53
with an SD of 1.58); and heterogeneous groups were drawn from the entire continuum (the 20
groups averaged -.33 with an SD of 3.5, more than twice as large as the SD across homogeneous
groups).


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