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Can Inaccurate Beliefs about Incumbents be Changed? And Can Reframing Change Votes?

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  • Rogers, Todd

    (Harvard University)

  • Nickerson, David W.

    (University of Notre Dame)

Abstract

Can independent groups change voters' beliefs about an incumbent's positions? And, does reframing how candidates' are perceived by changing beliefs about their positions influence actual vote choices? Past laboratory and observational research suggests that candidate reframing is difficult and of little consequence because the messages must be believed despite competing messages, counter-framing and misinformation. We report the results of a field experiment conducted during a highly competitive 2008 US Senate election showing that independent organizations can meaningfully reframe candidates, and that reframing can affect vote choice. Two pro-choice organizations administered an inexpensive mail and phone intervention correcting a prevalent false belief that the incumbent was pro-choice. This modest reframing intervention enduringly corrected the beliefs of one-third of misinformed participants, and induced a sizable proportion to align their vote choices with their policy priorities.

Suggested Citation

  • Rogers, Todd & Nickerson, David W., 2013. "Can Inaccurate Beliefs about Incumbents be Changed? And Can Reframing Change Votes?," Working Paper Series rwp13-018, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-018
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    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/citation.aspx?PubId=9020&type=WPN
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    5. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:88:y:1994:i:01:p:63-76_09 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Bailey, Michael & Hopkins, Daniel J. & Rogers, Todd, 2013. "Unresponsive and Unpersuaded: The Unintended Consequences of Voter Persuasion Efforts," Working Paper Series rwp13-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Ceren Baysan, 2017. "Can More Information Lead to More Voter Polarization? Experimental Evidence from Turkey," 2017 Papers pba1551, Job Market Papers.

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