Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In politics negative opinions outweigh positive ones

In my day job I issued a press release about a paper in the British Journal of Social Psychology. It had a Friday morning embargo, but I forgot to write about it here.

Fortunately it was picked up by several journalists, most notably Richard Alleyne in the Daily Telegraph:
Scientists have found that when it comes to politics and other issues we deeply care about, negative opinions carry more weight than positive ones. 
A phrase such as "I don't like Obama" is likely to be more strongly held than a positive view such as "I like Romney", the study by the British Journal of Social Psychology found. 
And once we hold a negative opinion it is only like to strengthen over time. This is in direct contrast to positive thoughts. 
The phenomenon could explain why politicians tend to have shelf life – and why when they are sliding out of favour, there is no going back.
The report (and my release) went on to quote the lead researcher, Dr George Bizer from New York's Union College:
"Our research showed that framing an opinion in terms of opposition yields stronger attitudes than does framing it in terms of support. 
"The most interesting point from our latest research is that this effect is actually stronger when people process the messages more deeply – when they are motivated and have been able to think about the issue. 
"But when people are not motivated and able, the effect goes away. 
"So, perhaps counter-intuitively, the people who care the most about the issues or candidates seem more likely to be affected by the bias."
I hope Dr Bizer is safe in the current New York emergency: it is rare to send a draft release to an academic and have it come back shorter.

1 comment:

Stephen Bigger said...

Thanks, Jonathan. Perhaps this explains why I still hate the Daily Mail. Stephen