Does Counter-Attitudinal Information Cause Backlash? Results from Three Large Survey Experiments

Andrew Guess, Alexander Coppock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations

Abstract

Several theoretical perspectives suggest that when individuals are exposed to counter-attitudinal evidence or arguments, their pre-existing opinions and beliefs are reinforced, resulting in a phenomenon sometimes known as 'backlash'. This article formalizes the concept of backlash and specifies how it can be measured. It then presents the results from three survey experiments - two on Mechanical Turk and one on a nationally representative sample - that find no evidence of backlash, even under theoretically favorable conditions. While a casual reading of the literature on information processing suggests that backlash is rampant, these results indicate that it is much rarer than commonly supposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1497-1515
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Volume50
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • attitude polarization
  • backfire effect
  • motivated reasoning
  • public opinion

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