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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  Dissimilar attitude structures also help explain differences in the size of information effects across the three gay rights questions from 1992. Table 6 shows that while the most knowledgeable respondents applied essentially the same attitude structure to opinions about gay rights regardless of context, the least knowledgeable respondents drew from different mixes of attitudes when thinking about gay rights in terms of military service, job discrimination, and adoption rights. For both groups, feelings about gays as a group were significant predictors of attitudes toward gay rights, especially in the case of military service. However, the gap between surveyed and simulated opinion was relatively larger for the jobs question because egalitarianism was added as a significant predictor of opinions among the least informed. As discussed above, bringing concerns for social equality into the mix drove the views of ill- and well-informed respondents further apart than when the least informed considered only their feelings toward gays. Finally, opinions on adoption rights among the least informed primarily reflected feelings toward gays, but among the most informed primarily reflected tolerance for newer lifestyles. Tolerance was also a significant predictor of support for adoption rights among the ill informed, but although the two groups had essentially the same level of tolerance, 29 the opinions of the well informed were so much more constrained by tolerance attitudes that their opinions became relatively more supportive than those of the ill-informed. Underlying attitude structures cannot completely explain the differences between opinions on this question and the others—figure 3 shows that overall levels of support are dramatically lower in this question than for the other two, even in “fully informed” opinion—but they do clarify one route through which news coverage can create and resolve information effects in collective preferences. Levels of general political knowledge remain stable over time, but this knowledge can become a less important determinant of attitude structures when news coverage directs public attention toward particular issues. INSERT TABLE 6 ABOUT HERE 29 Mean differences in tolerance are not significant for 1992, t(1073)=-0.31, p=.75.

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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Dissimilar attitude structures also help explain differences in the size of information effects
across the three gay rights questions from 1992. Table 6 shows that while the most knowledgeable
respondents applied essentially the same attitude structure to opinions about gay rights regardless of
context, the least knowledgeable respondents drew from different mixes of attitudes when thinking
about gay rights in terms of military service, job discrimination, and adoption rights. For both
groups, feelings about gays as a group were significant predictors of attitudes toward gay rights,
especially in the case of military service. However, the gap between surveyed and simulated opinion
was relatively larger for the jobs question because egalitarianism was added as a significant predictor
of opinions among the least informed. As discussed above, bringing concerns for social equality into
the mix drove the views of ill- and well-informed respondents further apart than when the least
informed considered only their feelings toward gays. Finally, opinions on adoption rights among the
least informed primarily reflected feelings toward gays, but among the most informed primarily
reflected tolerance for newer lifestyles. Tolerance was also a significant predictor of support for
adoption rights among the ill informed, but although the two groups had essentially the same level of
tolerance,
29
the opinions of the well informed were so much more constrained by tolerance attitudes
that their opinions became relatively more supportive than those of the ill-informed. Underlying
attitude structures cannot completely explain the differences between opinions on this question and
the others—figure 3 shows that overall levels of support are dramatically lower in this question than
for the other two, even in “fully informed” opinion—but they do clarify one route through which
news coverage can create and resolve information effects in collective preferences. Levels of general
political knowledge remain stable over time, but this knowledge can become a less important
determinant of attitude structures when news coverage directs public attention toward particular
issues.
INSERT TABLE 6 ABOUT HERE
29 Mean differences in tolerance are not significant for 1992, t(1073)=-0.31, p=.75.


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