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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  Seen from this perspective, the trend in surveyed opinion toward higher levels of support over time arises because the attitude structures of well- and ill-informed respondents grow more similar to one another. Feelings toward homosexuals figure prominently in the attitude structures of both groups, with more knowledgeable respondents having more positive feelings toward gays. The mean “feeling thermometer” scores toward gays rose for both groups over this period (out of a possible 100 points, from 24 to 29 to 35 points for the lowest knowledge quartile, and from 34 to 43 to 44 points for the highest quartile), but the most knowledgeable respondents remained 10 points “warmer” toward gays in 1988, 14 points warmer in 1992, and 8 points warmer in 1996. Given the increasingly more positive feelings toward gays over time, we might expect that surveyed support in 1992 should be higher than it actually was, falling about midway between the earlier and later values. The reason it is not has to do with the importance of egalitarian attitudes for both groups: in 1992 the lowest quartile was significantly less concerned about social equality than the highest quartile, but in 1996 the lowest quartile was relatively more concerned about social equality. The significant impact of concern for social equality thus lowered support for gay rights in 1992, but raised support in 1996 by more closely joining the opinions of both groups on this issue. Adding tolerance as a significant variable in 1996 also diminished the difference between groups in surveyed opinion, since ill-informed respondents in that year tended to be more accepting of newer lifestyle than the well informed. 28 The connection between attitude structures and information effects is now apparent: by 1996, ill-informed respondents thought about gay rights in essentially the same way as well-informed respondents did, but in 1988 and especially 1992 differences in attitudes and attitude structures led the ill informed to be less supportive than the well informed of laws protecting homosexual workers from discrimination. 28 Mean differences in feeling thermometer scores for gays are significant among the highest and lowest knowledge quartiles, all t’s >4.2, all p’s <.001. Mean differences in egalitarianism are significant for 1992, t(1071)=-8.64, p<.001, but not significant for 1996, t(759)=1.35, p=.18. Mean differences in tolerance are marginally significant for 1996, t(773)=-1.96, p=.05, with the lowest quartile being slightly more tolerant (M=2.61) than the highest (M=2.50).

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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Seen from this perspective, the trend in surveyed opinion toward higher levels of support over
time arises because the attitude structures of well- and ill-informed respondents grow more similar to
one another. Feelings toward homosexuals figure prominently in the attitude structures of both
groups, with more knowledgeable respondents having more positive feelings toward gays. The mean
“feeling thermometer” scores toward gays rose for both groups over this period (out of a possible
100 points, from 24 to 29 to 35 points for the lowest knowledge quartile, and from 34 to 43 to 44
points for the highest quartile), but the most knowledgeable respondents remained 10 points
“warmer” toward gays in 1988, 14 points warmer in 1992, and 8 points warmer in 1996.
Given the increasingly more positive feelings toward gays over time, we might expect that
surveyed support in 1992 should be higher than it actually was, falling about midway between the
earlier and later values. The reason it is not has to do with the importance of egalitarian attitudes for
both groups: in 1992 the lowest quartile was significantly less concerned about social equality than
the highest quartile, but in 1996 the lowest quartile was relatively more concerned about social
equality. The significant impact of concern for social equality thus lowered support for gay rights in
1992, but raised support in 1996 by more closely joining the opinions of both groups on this issue.
Adding tolerance as a significant variable in 1996 also diminished the difference between groups in
surveyed opinion, since ill-informed respondents in that year tended to be more accepting of newer
lifestyle than the well informed.
28
The connection between attitude structures and information effects is now apparent: by 1996,
ill-informed respondents thought about gay rights in essentially the same way as well-informed
respondents did, but in 1988 and especially 1992 differences in attitudes and attitude structures led
the ill informed to be less supportive than the well informed of laws protecting homosexual workers
from discrimination.
28 Mean differences in feeling thermometer scores for gays are significant among the highest and lowest
knowledge quartiles, all t’s >4.2, all p’s <.001. Mean differences in egalitarianism are significant for 1992, t(1071)=-
8.64, p<.001, but not significant for 1996, t(759)=1.35, p=.18. Mean differences in tolerance are marginally
significant for 1996, t(773)=-1.96, p=.05, with the lowest quartile being slightly more tolerant (M=2.61) than the
highest (M=2.50).


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