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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  <B> Differences in Attitude Structures and Information Processing Strategies Information effects in collective preferences might also arise from differences in heuristic strategies and attitude structures common to well- and ill-informed respondents. Knowledgeable respondents tend to have more highly developed and constrained attitude structures than ill-informed respondents (Converse 1964; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Lockerbie 1991) , which may make them less prone to question wording and order effects (Kinder and Sanders 1990; Krosnick 1991; Yankelovich 1991; Zaller 1992a) . They also tend to rely on different heuristic shortcuts than ill- informed people, which can cause them to structure their attitudes in ways unlike less knowledgeable respondents or to construct different opinions from the same attitude structures (Chaiken and Maheswaran 1994; Conover, Feldman, and Knight 1987; Duch, Palmer, and Anderson 2000; Lau and Redlawsk 2001; Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock 1991) . For example, two similar questions about American financial support of the Nicaraguan Contras were posed to a national sample in 1989. The first asked simply “Would you like to see aid to the Contras in Nicaragua increased, decreased, or kept about the same?” The second version identified the Contras as anti-communist guerrillas and presented pro and con views on the issue before leading into the first question. Politically attentive respondents understood both versions of the question in terms of anti- communism, but inattentive respondents answered the second question as if it were measuring their feelings about anti-communism and the first as if it were asking about their views on government spending (Zaller 1992b) . Ill-informed respondents reasoned from a similar basis as the well informed only when prompted by the “anti-communist” cue in the second question. Question wording effects that evoke different attitude structures for evaluating the same stimulus object can occasionally produce large differences between the opinions of the well and ill informed. A widely noted and curious example of these effects hinges on whether “welfare” or “aid to poor people” is used to describe government assistance to the poor (Rasinski 1989; Smith 1987) . A direct test of this wording effect was conducted in the 1996 ANES. Respondents were first presented with the following question: “Should federal spending on welfare programs be increased, decreased, or kept about the same?” Later in the interview, respondents were asked this question again, except that the term “poor people” was used in place of “welfare programs.” This small

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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<B>
Differences in Attitude Structures and Information Processing Strategies
Information effects in collective preferences might also arise from differences in heuristic
strategies and attitude structures common to well- and ill-informed respondents. Knowledgeable
respondents tend to have more highly developed and constrained attitude structures than ill-informed
respondents
(Converse 1964; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Lockerbie 1991)
, which may make
them less prone to question wording and order effects
(Kinder and Sanders 1990; Krosnick 1991;
Yankelovich 1991; Zaller 1992a)
. They also tend to rely on different heuristic shortcuts than ill-
informed people, which can cause them to structure their attitudes in ways unlike less knowledgeable
respondents or to construct different opinions from the same attitude structures
(Chaiken and
Maheswaran 1994; Conover, Feldman, and Knight 1987; Duch, Palmer, and Anderson 2000; Lau
and Redlawsk 2001; Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock 1991)
. For example, two similar questions
about American financial support of the Nicaraguan Contras were posed to a national sample in
1989. The first asked simply “Would you like to see aid to the Contras in Nicaragua increased,
decreased, or kept about the same?” The second version identified the Contras as anti-communist
guerrillas and presented pro and con views on the issue before leading into the first question.
Politically attentive respondents understood both versions of the question in terms of anti-
communism, but inattentive respondents answered the second question as if it were measuring their
feelings about anti-communism and the first as if it were asking about their views on government
spending
(Zaller 1992b)
. Ill-informed respondents reasoned from a similar basis as the well
informed only when prompted by the “anti-communist” cue in the second question.
Question wording effects that evoke different attitude structures for evaluating the same
stimulus object can occasionally produce large differences between the opinions of the well and ill
informed. A widely noted and curious example of these effects hinges on whether “welfare” or “aid
to poor people” is used to describe government assistance to the poor
(Rasinski 1989; Smith 1987)
.
A direct test of this wording effect was conducted in the 1996 ANES. Respondents were first
presented with the following question: “Should federal spending on welfare programs be increased,
decreased, or kept about the same?” Later in the interview, respondents were asked this question
again, except that the term “poor people” was used in place of “welfare programs.” This small


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