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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  1992, network news programs aired none about adoptions by homosexuals (in fact, only one such story could be found between 1980 and 1992), 15 about workplace rights, and 27 about the military, focusing mainly on highly publicized cases of a sailor who was beaten to death by fellow crewmembers and the discharge of a gay noncommissioned officer from the Navy. This disparity in news attention is reflected in the size of gaps between the surveyed and simulated opinions of respondents from the lowest knowledge quartile: a 20.1 percentage point gap for the adoption question, a 15.8 point gap for the job discrimination question, and an 8.1 point gap for the gays in the military question. 26 Figure 3 shows that while all three questions deal with gay rights, surveyed opinion among the least knowledgeable citizens more closely resembled “fully informed” opinion on the aspects of gay rights that received more prominent attention in the news. INSERT FIGURE 3 ABOUT HERE It is notable that once news attention to this topic receded after 1993, attitudes toward gay rights did not revert to their pre-1992 levels (see Figure 2). Instead, support for legal protections in surveyed opinion rose by more than 10 points among the least informed, a change that was telegraphed in advance by the direction and distance of simulated opinion relative to surveyed opinion. A large gap between surveyed and simulated opinion in 1992 accurately predicted a large shift in surveyed opinion in 1996, which moved in the direction indicated by “fully informed” opinion in 1992. The same foreshadowing can be seen in the 1988 comparison, where a small gap between surveyed and simulated opinion predicts a relatively small increase in surveyed support for 1992. These patterns can be interpreted as arising from different rates of information diffusion among the least and most knowledgeable citizens. The most informed updated their opinions quickly in 1992, while the least informed took much longer to update their views in response to a changed information environment. Any of three mechanisms could have brought about the observed changes. 26 Information effects for collective opinions including all respondents ran 12.2 points for the adoption question, 3 points for the job discrimination question, and 2.9 points for the gays in the military question.

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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1992, network news programs aired none about adoptions by homosexuals (in fact, only one such
story could be found between 1980 and 1992), 15 about workplace rights, and 27 about the military,
focusing mainly on highly publicized cases of a sailor who was beaten to death by fellow
crewmembers and the discharge of a gay noncommissioned officer from the Navy. This disparity in
news attention is reflected in the size of gaps between the surveyed and simulated opinions of
respondents from the lowest knowledge quartile: a 20.1 percentage point gap for the adoption
question, a 15.8 point gap for the job discrimination question, and an 8.1 point gap for the gays in the
military question.
26
Figure 3 shows that while all three questions deal with gay rights, surveyed
opinion among the least knowledgeable citizens more closely resembled “fully informed” opinion on
the aspects of gay rights that received more prominent attention in the news.
INSERT FIGURE 3 ABOUT HERE
It is notable that once news attention to this topic receded after 1993, attitudes toward gay rights
did not revert to their pre-1992 levels (see Figure 2). Instead, support for legal protections in
surveyed opinion rose by more than 10 points among the least informed, a change that was
telegraphed in advance by the direction and distance of simulated opinion relative to surveyed
opinion. A large gap between surveyed and simulated opinion in 1992 accurately predicted a large
shift in surveyed opinion in 1996, which moved in the direction indicated by “fully informed”
opinion in 1992. The same foreshadowing can be seen in the 1988 comparison, where a small gap
between surveyed and simulated opinion predicts a relatively small increase in surveyed support for
1992.
These patterns can be interpreted as arising from different rates of information diffusion among
the least and most knowledgeable citizens. The most informed updated their opinions quickly in
1992, while the least informed took much longer to update their views in response to a changed
information environment. Any of three mechanisms could have brought about the observed changes.
26 Information effects for collective opinions including all respondents ran 12.2 points for the adoption
question, 3 points for the job discrimination question, and 2.9 points for the gays in the military question.


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