Research of Ph.D. candidate Lilach Nir and Professors Joseph Cappella and Vincent Price appears in two articles in a special issue of Political Communication (2002, volume 19, no.1) devoted to Campaign 2000.
In “Does disagreement contribute to more deliberative opinion?” Lir and co-authors Price and Cappella examine whether disagreement in political conversation contributes to opinion quality—specifically, whether it expands one’s understanding of others’ perspectives. Data are drawn from a survey of the American public (N = 1,684) conducted in February and March 2000. Open-ended survey measures of “argument repertoire”—reasons people can give in support of their own opinions, as well as reasons they can offer to support opposing points of view—are examined in light of numerous explanatory variables, including the frequency of political conversation and exposure to disagreement. Results confirm the hypothesis that exposure to disagreement does indeed contribute to people’s ability to generate reasons, and in particular reasons why others might disagree with their own views.
In “Argument Repertoire as a reliable and valid measure of opinion quality: Electronic dialogue during campaign 2000,” Nir and co-authors Cappella and Price developed and tested a new measure of opinion quality, designed to tap respondents' awareness of rationales for their own political point of view, as well as their understanding of alternative points of view. A new measure of opinion quality that they name “argument repertoire” (AR) is introduced and evaluated. AR refers to the relevant reasons that one has for one’s own opinions and the relevant reasons that others with opposite opinions might have. The measure is shown to be reliable and to have construct validity. Those with elevated AR also were more likely to attend on-line deliberative groups during the presidential election and to contribute to those conversations. Those who participated in online deliberations tended to have higher AR scores on particular issues that were discussed. The role of AR in deliberative political groups is explored.