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Bridging the Minority Influence Gap: The Roles of Social Identification and Prototypicality
AuthorKaplan , Tatyana
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Continued partisan division in the U.S. prevents collaboration to solve important societal problems. However, adherents of different political parties are not homogenous; within every group exist minority viewpoints that can influence the majority. Building on extant literatures on social identity, persuasion and minority influence, the present research sought to delineate conditions under which a minority within one’s group can change the attitudes of the majority when the ingroup is involved in a broader intergroup conflict. This dissertation proposes the Minority/Majority Model of Persuasion (3MP) and tests its predictions in the context of carbon tax policy. Majority influence is conceived of as a moderated mediation process whereby the effect of message source group membership (ingroup vs. outgroup) on message elaboration is moderated by strength identification as a Democrat or Republican. Minority influence is a doubly moderated mediation with the impact of an ingroup or outgroup message source on elaboration of a carbon tax-related message moderated by both the ingroup prototypicality of message source and strength of identification. Minority influence is hypothesized to be stronger for non-focal, yet related attitudes.Following four pilot studies, the main experiment (N = 551) varied the political party of the message source, message source prototypicality, and whether the message (pro- vs. anti-carbon tax) represented a majority or a minority position within the message source’s party. Strength of social identification and need for cognition were also assessed. Results did not support the 3MP. Regardless of message source or content, Democrats did not vary in their evaluation of a carbon tax, with more favorable views linked to greater strength of social identification. Republicans were responsive to minority influence, but the process was best captured with a simple mediation such that reading a pro-carbon tax message from an ingroup source produced more favorable elaboration and more positive carbon tax attitudes. When receiving an anti-carbon tax message, Republicans resembled Democrats in that persuasive effects were minimal. Effects on related attitudes did not emerge. Findings indicate that Republicans are open to persuasion about carbon tax if the message comes from a fellow Republican. Implications for persuasion and minority influence are discussed.