Ph.D. candidate Lilach Nir's "Group Influences on Opinion Expression and Change," co-authored with Annenberg professors Vincent Price and Joseph N. Cappella, was competitively selected to a panel presentation at the annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, St. Pete's Beach, Florida, May 16-19, 2002. The paper was also presented at the annual conference of the International Communication Association, Seoul, Korea, 15-19 July, 2002, where it received a Top Paper award in the Political Communication Division.
ABSTRACT: How do the statements made by people in group discussions affect other people’s willingness to express their own opinions, or argue for them? And how does group interaction ultimately shape individual opinions? We examine carefully whether and how the normative opinion climate in a group (indexed by mere opinion statements) and the informational climate (indexed by reasons and arguments) shape both (a) individuals’ expressive behavior in the discussions, and (b) changes in personal opinions. Data come from a series of 60 online group discussions, involving ordinary citizens, about the tax plans offered by rival presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore. Results suggest that the argumentative “climate” of group opinion indeed affected post-discussion opinion change. A primary mechanism responsible for this effect appears to be an intermediate influence on individual participants’ own expressions during the online deliberations.