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Choice, Social Structure, and Political Information: The Information Coercion of Minorities Author(s): Robert Huckfeldt and John

Sprague Reviewed work(s): Source: American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 2 (May, 1988), pp. 467-482 Published by: Midwest Political Science Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 25/08/2012 16:19
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SocialStructure, Political and Choice, Information: * TheInformational Coercion Minorities of

Robert Indiana University Huckfeldt, John Sprague, Washington University
of This study examines effects individual the and of political preference, thedistribution such discussion The the preferences, thechoiceofpolitical upon combines a partners. database for study in of 1984 election of survey citizens SouthBend, Indiana,witha subsequent survey people with whom these citizens discusspolitics. is to Specialattention given theconsequences on attendant minority majority and distributionsthelocal socialmilieu. in preference ReaganandMondalevoters are to to from socialcontext, observed shown respond the similarly political and support differences in behavior thesetwogroups shown be theconsequence differential for to political are of distributions, in local socialcontexts, ReaganandMondalesupporters. of Rational voters exhibit rational informationsearch but choiceemerges theanalysis a compromise in as behavior, political between individual political and discussion preference sociallystructured opportunity.

in Citizens a democracy exercise free choicewhenthey obtain inpolitical formation. avoidsomeinformation and They seekoutothers based sources, they ownpolitical and upontheir preferences viewpoints. of Indeed,theavailability informational alternatives one of the defining is characteristics democratic of to Liberalsare free readliberal and politics. newspapers, conservatives free are to readconservative More important thisanalysis, for newspapers. Democrats arefree seekoutother to Democrats political as discussion and partners, Republicansare freeto seek out other Whilethissortof freeinformaRepublicans. to it tionalchoiceis central democracy, is also constrained social structure. by Freechoiceoperates within and opportunities constraints areimposed the that by socialcontext, thecentral and issuespursued herearetwo.First, howis informational choicecircumscribed thestructurally determined by for opportunities social interaction, interaction which carries content? political are Second,what the for and consequences majority minority political preferences? Preference Social Influence and In his Economic Downs(1957, p. 229) arTheory Democracy, of Anthony obtained informationa valuable is guesthat socially political resource becauseit is "often sourcesof information coincidewiththe relatively easy" to find that receiver's own political That preferences. is, rational actorsare well servedto obtain information other from actors situated becausethebias andconsimilarly
*This research been supported partunderNationalScience Foundation has in Grants SES8319188 to Washington SES-8318899 to the University NotreDame, and SESof University, 8415572to IndianaUniversity. was also provided theOffice Research Graduate of and Support by and and Development bytheCollegeofArts Sciencesat Indiana University.


and Sprague Robert Huckfieldt John

is moreeasilythanthebias and content of tent suchinformation controlled of or for from television newspapers. Assuming the information obtained, example, how of by guided social structure? truth Down'sproposition, is thisbehavior in depends fundamen(socialinfluence) The roleofsocialstructure politics source or does thechoiceofan information precede tally upontwoissues.First, extent theimposition is the of Second,to what antecede formation a preference? At in if choiceproblematic itseffectiveness? one extreme, poof informational informational choiceis liticalpreference choice,and if informational precedes but is imageof an thensocial influence nothing a mirror powerfully invoked, if inclination. choiceprecitizen's Alternatively,informational individual prior choiceis incomplete, thepotential then for or cedes preference ifinformational socialinfluence arises. the and In terms thefirst of political preference issue,itis clearly case that in movement choice are coupled,simultaneously, their through informational informational choiceaffects affects time.Preference choice,and informational focusrests This simultaneity addressed is below,butour primary preference. to are upon political preferences imposed uponthesecondissue:theextent which limit effectivenessindividual the of choice.Does thesocialcontext informational information? control overpolitical two effects social context conof are In theanalysis that follows, different of effects political information, sidered: uponthecontent sociallytransmitted to informaand effects dissonance-producing upontheresistance disagreeable, to then tion.Ifinformational choiceis madesubject available alternatives, choice since in different acrosssocial contexts, mustbe invoked systematically ways In minorities be will variesacrosscontexts. particular, alternative availability in thanmajorities order obtainthe to forced invoke to choicemorevigorously information. samemixof socially transmitted Thus,either theflow (1) political of in of information be circumscribed thesupply political must information by resistance to or must thesocialcontext, (2) thelevelofdissonance respond these of or varying conditions supply, (3) both. PoliticalDiscussionin an ElectionCampaign from election an thisanalysis taken is conducted in study The database for the1984 presidential election SouthBend,Indiana, campaign. Approxiduring in were intermately1,500 respondents 16 SouthBend area neighborhoods times the At viewedat three different during courseof thecampaign. thethird, the were asked the names of the "three postelection interview, respondents of with mostabouttheevents thepastelection year."A very peopleyoutalked and wereaskedthenames of couldnotrespond, thus smallnumber respondents to ofthose"with whom weremost conversations during likely haveinformal you A of in thecourseof thepastfewmonths." subsequent battery questions, turn,



TABLE 1 of WhoBelieveThatTheirDiscussants Proportion Voters Them Agreewith Discussant's Vote Vote Respondent's Reagan Mondale Reagan .91 (170) .43 (53) Nonvoter .35 (20) .53 (15) Mondale .32 (65) .92 (90) Total .72 (255) .72 (158)

of Proportion Mondalevoters' discussants actually who votedfor Mondale= 90/(53+ 15 + 90) of who Proportion Reaganvoters' discussants actually votedfor
Reagan = 170/(170 + 20 + 65) = .67 = .57

whoarerelatives omitted. are NOTE:Discussants SOURCE: 1984 SouthBend Study.

variousattributes thesediscussion of solicited the partners, including mainreof vote.Finally, follow-up a spondent's perception thediscussant's presidential snowball 950 reinterviewed survey approximately ofthesediscussants. The analysis heredepends reported primarily uponthemainrespondents' of discussion who perceptions voting preferences among partners werenotrelatives.Two preliminary issuesnaturally arise.First, what to extent discussion are in candidate choiceintheelection? partners ageement regarding Second,to what do extent themainrespondents the behavior of systematically misperceive voting to their In discussion Table 1 showsthat twopartners? answer thefirst question, of thirds Reaganvoters havediscussants who reported for voting Reagan,and 57 percent Mondalevoters of havediscussants reported who for voting Mondale. in Thisis strong evidence support informational of choiceoperating theselecin tionofdiscussion The of behavior discussion partners. self-reported voting partners tends toward even their fall short agreement, though political preferences far of uniformity. In terms thesecondissue,Table 1 also showstheproportion Mondale of of and Reaganvoters who believethat their discussion votedforthesame partner for behavior the discussant. of candidate, controlling the self-reported voting the Voters behavior their of systematically misperceive voting discussants. They are 90 percent accurate whenthediscussant shares samepreference, acthe but for diminishes discussants withopposite curacy and preferences, it diminishes


Sprague and Huckfeldt John Robert

on of The discussants. neteffect misperception the nonvoting among evenfurther the is, partof themainrespondents of course,to overestimate levelof political and discussion partners. themselves their between agreement upon information is Table 1 shows thatpoliticalpreference impressed to in are partner) twoways:(1) voters morelikely choice(choiceofa discussion whodisand with preferences (2) voters peoplewho sharetheir discusspolitics misperfrequently preferences cuss politics with peoplewhodo notsharetheir In agreement. in thatis biased toward preferences a manner ceive discussant preference mechanisms enforcing for we both that theanalysis follows, combine misperception-by choice-selective choice and selective upon associational for accuracy. without concern perceptual perceptions uponrespondent focusing conbut with perceived is content, rather interest notwith objective Ourpresent bothto thebiased respond in theseperceptions the and tent, with manner which resisin and informationthesocialcontext, to individual of distribution political to are with preferences perceived be discussion partners whom tancein choosing in conflict. A Model of DiscussantChoice it in ways.First, does not of The analysis Table 1 is limited twodifferent availablefordiscussion withpolitithe opportunities takeintoaccount varying of and Members political of majorities members individuals. callylike-minded to different of sets choosediscussion subject vastly minorities partners political but and opportunities constraints, Table 1 leavesout thesesortsof conditions. of in supply theformation Second,becauseTable 1 does notisolatechoicefrom toexamthe discussion dyads,itdoes notoffer opportunity agreeable politically in choiceresponds the of inethecontribution each,orto examine manner which information. of in to supply theflow political by the theseissueswe employ logic set forth Coleman In order address to a (1983, 1986)toconstructmodelofdiscusbyHuckfeldt (1964) as reinterpreted in The logic of thismodelis portrayed Figure1. Whena citizen santselection. the withanother individual, to considerswhether discuss politicsregularly diswith or choiceis predicated uponheragreement disagreement thepotential as but the is cussant.If agreement present, personis accepted a discussant, if or look fora newdiscussant must either then citizen the is disagreementpresent dissonant discussant and, hence,a politically disagreeable accepta politically relationship. of in is The socialcontext important thismodelbecausethesupply discuscircumscribed. is People living santswithvarious preferences environmentally to havefewer ceteris opportunitieschoosepolitical paribus, Republicans, among in of preference Mondale.Thustheexpression political who discussants support and within setofopportunities constraints a is thechoiceofassociates imbedded in As case, thelastMondalesupporter by imposed thesocialcontext. a limiting




FIGURE1 Choice A Model Discussant of |potential| discussant

agreement: congruent relationship

disagreement acceptance dis]sonant relationship resistance potential discussant / /\ /\ /\


will environment be unableto an otherwise Reagan-supporting homogeneously like-minded discussant. find politically a within modelmust corthe be of The expression choiceas itis incorporated political allowlittle choiceregarding settings Some structural rectly understood. havelittle choiceregarding whether they husbands wivesoften and discussants: behind high lies the levelsof and matters, therein themotive willdiscuss political and within families (Macoby,Matthews, Morton,1954; homogeneity political conseverely settings, however, and Dahlgren, 1959). Manyother McCloskey between discussion partchoicewithout agreement necessarily producing strain an exampleof thesesorts provide extreme ners.Sons-in-law fathers-in-law and withrepugnant and neighbors of relationships, co-workers nosynext-door but others. short, In choice is best seen as operating viewpoints provide political to with disa Whether nota citizen or continues discuss politics probabilistically. the of factors: structural associate setting the uponnumerous depends agreeable the of of and, the relationship, extremity disagreement, intensity viewpoints, as on preference. standing thepartof a political we shallshow,majority-minority of The Logical Structure theModel translated an algebraic into The logicofFigure1 is readily representation. but for this We demonstrate translation Reaganpreferences, thesameprinciples


Sprague Huckfeldt John and Robert

be Reaganand as Mondalepreferences well. Let theithpreference for applyfor define: who in P. = theprobability a Reaganvoter context has a discussant is that j also a Reaganvoter; or another of Reaganvoter, theprobability S. = theprobability encountering is in thejth context a Reaganvoter random(a a member that population and mixing assumption); discusin political j that r..= theprobability a Reaganvoter context resists someone whois nota Reaganvoter. sionwith of the for a one After opportunity choosing discussant, probability a Reagan of with Reaganpreferencetheprobability encountera is someone voter selecting two After opportunities, random encounters. assuming inga Reagansupporter, of someonewho encountering is theprobability (1) theprobability randomly of of encounter, (2) theproduct theprobability plus Reaganat thefirst supports times voter thefirst at a non-Reagan opportunity - S) multiplied (1 encountering of times probability enthe discussion multiplied of theprobability resisting (rd1) at a (Sj). counteringReagansupporter thesecondopportunity Thislogicproceeds as: and indefinitely is expressed
Pij[k] = Sj[l] + (1


. . .


and the after wherek indexestheprobability k opportunities, where bracketed from somearbitrary measured starting a opportunity number specifies particular point. to this are Several are assumptions necessary utilize logic,butnoneofthem that for heroic. we inforFirst, areassuming opportunities obtaining particularly exercisediscretion but remation contextually are structured, thatindividuals In the whether makeuse of theopportunities. other to words, modelis garding by and imposes opportunities constraints notdeterministic. structural The setting to that The but determining supply, peoplearefree makechoiceswithin setting. invoke choicein desocialencounters, individuals but socialcontext determines into an whether turn encounter a relationship. to ciding discussant based is that Second,we are assuming thechoiceof a political like-minded disand politically peopledo notreject criteria, that uponpolitical criteria. Othercriteria be whentheyinvokepolitical certainly cussants might of exercise like-minded but usedtoreject discussants, thepurpose this politically in the used by individuals selecting is notto incorporate fullrangeof motives that the associates. the Rather, modelis an abstraction willhelptountangle interin theflow political of information. playof choiceand supply across as and thusS. is constant we preferences fixed, Third, are treating allowsthedeletion thebracketed of indexon disThisassumption opportunities. to: and cussionopportunities, themodelsimplifies



= P1j[kJ S + (1 -

.)r.jSj +

+ (1 - S1)k lrlS. I


Treatthisgeometric seriesas infinite, it maybe rearranged theclosed and into form:

Py[k] = [Sj





of As thenumber opportunities grows large,kbecomes the large,andthus model the approaches following equilibrium:

Si!(l - r



if Noticethat dissonance is resistance complete = 1), discussion partners are (rV if politically homogeneous = 1). Conversely, people are politically (P11 indisin criminate their choiceof discussion partners = 0), then probability the (rij of is a like-minded discussant thesame as thesupply like-minded of discussants (S). the Estimating Model 4 a Equation maybe manipulated derive representationdissonance to of reor choice: sistance, information
ri = (Pj




Andthisform themodeloffers of for potential better understanding nature the of discussion The minority partner strategies. resistance parameter is unobserv(rij) for available.Thus r..can be estimated, able,butmeasures S. and P.. arereadily oncea pairofvaluesforP.. and SI areobtained. As a first step,Table 2 setsforth results from logistic a regression model and and (Hanushek Jackson, estimates conthe 1977;McCrate Miller,1979)that that think havea discussant textually contingent probabilities Reaganvoters they whovoted Reagan,andthat for Mondalevoters think havea discussant who they for voted Mondale.Theregressions carried separately Mondalevoters out are for and Reaganvoters, demographic and controls incomeand education infor are in troduced eachequation (Hauser,1974). The analysis discussants onlyincludes who are notrelatives. a respondent If mentions morethanone discussant who is nota relative, analysis carried forthefirst the is out mentioned nonrelative discussant. We have also undertaken the analysesof thesedata whichincorporate of choice and politicalpreference. This is accomsimultaneity informational a estimation where first the plished throughtwo-stage procedure, stageconstructs for instruments political whichare (relatively) from preference independent the of effects informational choice.Theseinstruments inturn, usedinthesubseare, of effects choice. (For an illusquentestimation contextual uponinformational tration similar of see and procedures, Huckfeldt Sprague,1987.) These more


Robert and Sprague Huckfeldt John

TABLE 2 Projected Discussant Voting Behavior the1984Presidential in Election

A. Reaganvoters' of of projections Reaganvoting thepart their on discussants the by proportional Reaganvotein theReaganvoters' neighborhoods, controlling the for income educational and levels.(Logitmodel:dependent is Reaganvoters' variable REAGP.) t-value Coefficient .17 INTERCEPT -.13 MREAGAN 3.53 3.14 N = 449 -.07 1.21 EDUCATION .51 .04 INCOME of B. Mondalevoters' of on discussants the projections Mondalevoting thepart their by proportional Mondalevotein theMondalevoters' neighborhoods, controlling the for Mondalevoters' income educational and is levels.(Logitmodel:dependent variable MONDP.) Coefficient t-value .10 INTERCEPT .10 3.55 2.12 MMONDALE N = 303 -.03 .51 EDUCATION
INCOME -.08 1.02

thinks discussant voted Reagan;0 otherwise for REAGP = 1 ifmainrespondent MONDP = 1 ifmainrespondent thinks discussant voted Mondale;0 otherwise for of in who MREAGAN = proportion respondents mainrespondent's neighborhood voted forReagan of in who MMONDALE = proportion respondents mainrespondent's neighborhood votedforMondale EDUCATION = respondent's education (range: 4-17; mean:13) INCOME = respondent's income (range:1-8; mean:5)

SOURCE: 1984 South Bend Study.

whoarerelatives omitted. are Discussants

do reachedthrough more the complicated techniques not alterconclusions here. straightforward procedures presented is The socialcontext defined theproportions theneighborhood as of populationthatvotedforReaganand forMondalein theNovember election.These measures obtained are from third-wave the redirectly survey aggregating by and within the spondents neighborhoods by calculating proportion theneighof borhood votedaccordingly. Such a practice two samplethat presents measurement howreliable sucha measure, is issues.First, the smallsize given relatively of theneighborhood 95 sample-approximately respondents neighborhood? per




censusstatistics whichare aggregated This is bestanswered examining by by boundaries. between census-derived Correlations thesameneighborhood status and status correlate a levelin excessof .9, at measures survey-derived measures the measures reliable. we are andthus conclude survey-derived neighborhood to of A secondissuerelates thevalidity theaggregate Reaganvotemeasure. in biasesthat undoubtedly are Givennonresponse present thesurvey data,do we of levels?If themeasure intended is possessa validmeasure Reagansupport to of who a estimate theneighborhood provide precise proportion support Reagan thenit failsthevalidity becauseturnout untest is to thebase of all eligibles, On overestimated. the otherhand,the present measureprovides a doubtedly of measure Reagansupport acrossneighborhoods, it also proand goodrelative videsan estimate proportional of Reagansupport thebase of thepolitically to and activecontext activeneighborhood thatis population, it is thispolitically to most relevant ourpolitically activesample. It is important makecleartheneighborhood's to explanatory status (Eulau, that are social communities, 1986). We arenotarguing neighborhoods cohesive are of or that elements social life.We onlyarguethat they primary index they relevant and of opportunities constraints operating upontheflow political information. Mondalevoters have livingin Reaganneighborhoods fewer opportuniwithMondalesupporters Mondalevoters than who live in ties fordiscussion Mondale the of and neighborhoods. Further, consequence these opportunities conextend boundaries. Localizedsocialcontacts straints create beyond neighborhood so interaction the opportunities beyond neighborhood boundaries, that political of has for composition theneighborhood population consequences discussion opas outside neighborhood well. In keeping the with thisfact,Table 2 portunities who live bothwithin beyond mainrespondents' and considers discussants the In of the neighborhoods. short, proportion a neighborhood voting Reaganor for forMondaleis an indexon structurally social experience, as indiimposed just vidualeducation an indexon individually is socialexperience. imposed Two features Table 2 merit of reader attention. coefficients First, operating and uponcontext produce crispt-values appropriate signs.Second,themagnitudeof thecontext coefficients remarkably in are similar, spiteof thefactthat are in The of they estimated independentlyseparate regressions. significance this fact willbecomeapparent in theanalysis. later As a secondstep,theprobability Reaganvoters that perceive their discussants Reaganvoters theprobability Mondalevoters as and that perceive their disas are cussants Mondalevoters shownacrosstheobserved rangeof contextual levelsin Figure2A, withincomeand education support controlled sample at axis is measured means.The horizontal to according two different correbut dimensions. Reagansupport The variesacrossan observed sponding proportion is as rangeof .3 to .8, and theMondalesupport proportion estimated a linear function theReagan proportion. nonlinear, of (A logistictransformation pro-

FIGURE 2 to and Agreement Resistance Dissonance Perceived Contexts Neighborhood acrossObserved

A. Probabilitythat

disperceive voters preferences cussant .8 as beingthesame own. as their

per Reagan

E .6
So 4 Mondaleperception by Mondalevoter



Reagan: Proportion Mondale:* Proportion

B. Dissonance resis-

0 .7

.30 .50

.80 .17

1 .04

tanceprobability amongReaganand Mondalevoters.


.4 _



Reagan: Proportion Mondale:* Proportion .7

0 .7

.30 .50

.80 .17

1 .04

as Mondaleis estimated the of *Forboth parts thefigure, proportion .66 (proportion Reagan).





was and thusthelinearfunction employed.) identical results, duced virtually in In Mondaleand Reaganvoters thesame contexts. This allowsus to observe Mondale, that Reaganare50 percent other words, neighborhoods are30 percent of for flow and we can observetheconsequences such a context information bothsetsof voters. andbetween among of march 2A that with sothe Figure showsclearly perceptions discussants not indicate this theresult two that is of here, cial context. results, reported Other of in is preferences content structured thedistribution political by facts: objective and is by thesocialcontext, misperceptionstructured thesameconditions, both and in (Huckfeldt Sprague,1987). That is, are structured the same direction discussants they if live in contexts peopleare morelikelyto have like-minded of like-minded of people,andindependentlythisfirst densities other with higher their discussants like-minded they as if live to are likely perceive fact, they more densities other of like-minded discussants. thevoter, For with in contexts higher is the that and that however, onlyreality matters thereality is perceived, thus the in terms voter of perceptions. entire hereis performed analysis is else. The rangeof Reagan support higher Figure2A showssomething and that overallthantherangeof Mondalesupport, theprobability a Reagan that is overall than probability the is voter's discussant also a Reaganvoter higher In are discussant a Mondalevoter. short, is Reaganvoters in a a Mondalevoter's to discushavegreater opportunities locatelike-minded majority, thusthey and from for sants.Contextual support Reaganvariesapproximately .3 to .8, while from.17 to .5. Thus, at for estimated support Mondalevariesapproximately in that divided befound themselves a context was evenly best,Mondalevoters of and tween supporters nonsupportersMondale. 2A of estimates dissonance resistance TheplotsofFigure areusedto obtain in plotted Figure2B forbothReaganvoters (see equation whichare in turn 5), The resulting is for of and Mondalevoters. picture quitestriking: bothgroups to status less discussion majority produces resistance disagreeable voters, greater become a extreme As cometooccupy more minority status, they partners. voters In with words, moreresistant discussion to preferences. other partners opposite In inward resisting to minorities morelikely turn are opposing preferences. by showa higher overall levelof Mondalevoters with their minority status, keeping resistance about is levelofdissonance their lowest resistance. dissonance Indeed, level of dissonance resistance the same as thehighest amongReagan voters. results mean? Whatdo these of The UphillStruggle PoliticalMinorities 2B from minorities Thechief lessontobe learned (1) Figure is that political but to in turn inward an effort avoid a floodof disagreeable information, also seenin twodifferent Thisis readily are to ways. efforts doomed failure. (2) their to but than Mondalevoters more are dissonance, they Reaganvoters resist likely and dissonance. BothReaganvoters Mondale to arealso morelikely experience

FIGURE 3 acrossthe and to Agreement Resistance Dissonance Perceived Contexts Comparable FullPossibleRangeofTheoretically
A. Probabilitythat

voters perceive discussant preferences .8 as beingthesame as their own. , .6

Mondaleperception by Mondalevoter


Reaganperception by Reaganvoter


0 resisB. Dissonance tanceprobability amongReaganand Mondalevoters. 1 .8


.8 .4 .6 .2 Voters of Proportion Like-Minded

. d a l~Modae voters


Reaganvoters .4


.8 .2 .4 .6 Voters of Proportion Like-Minded




are to if voters more dissonance they likely resist but occupy minority status, they to if arealso more dissonance they likely experience Postatus. occupy minority litical minorities an uphill face as struggle informational choiceis overwhelmed and is byinformational supply, supply determined thepolitical distribution in by thelocal socialcontext. Theseresults consistent a literature are with out pointing that status minority in socialgroups turn inward thefaceof majority dominance (Noelle-Neumann, 1984). Finifter autoworkers an automobile (1974) studied Republican at factory and showedthattheyavoidedassociation withthemajority status Democrats. Berger (1960) studied middle-class residents a working-class of suburb found and and that weresocially isolated likely havemoved to they away.Gans(1967) studof ieda middle-class suburb found a range minority and that socialgroupsstatus in working class, blacks,old people-did notfit with dominant the social life. Ourownresults that resistance interaction to outside group the suggest increased is a natural of consequence minority but status, so is increased contact outside thegroup. The theoretical, opposedto empirical, as of comparison dissonance resistanceamongMondaleand Reaganvoters furthered observing is by information flowacrossthe entire theoretical That is, how do Reagan rangeof variation. and Mondalevoters voters whenbothare locatedin contexts compare where, of say,20 percent thepopulation holdscompatible preferences. is acvote This in 3. flow complished Figure Information anddissonance resistance virtually are identical acrossthetwogroups voters. theoretically of At comparable levelsof determined conditions supply, contextually of Reaganand Mondalevoters are to discussants withopposite equallylikely reject and are preferences, thusthey withthesame preferences. equallylikelyto have discussants Thus, thehigher levelof attempted introversion is amongMondalevoters whollya function of status. minority Onceagain,Figure must seenin light Figure 3B be of 3A. Atthesametime that becomemore resistant dissonant to as Reaganvoters information thesupply of dissonant information so are more increases, they simultaneously exposedto It dissonance! is notthat choiceis absent, rather itis ultimately but that doomed to failure. Even highlevels of resistance cannotinsulate from minorities exto posure majority preference. SouthBendneighborhoods ofcourse, important be may, of elements social in structure a way thatPhoenixneighborhoods Houstonneighborhoods or are not.(Forcontrary on evidence thisissue,see Huckfeldt Sprague, and forthcomof ing.) The possibility suchvariation does notcompromise analysis.The our informational important is notthat point choiceis circumscribed theneighborby that hood,butrather itis circumscribed socialstructure. structural by The specifics, and their political significance, undoubtedly from vary place to place and from timeto tirne, thisdoes notcall intoquestion importance social but the of


Robert Huckfeldt John and Sprague

If structure generally. thelocusof social interaction more changes, then pothe will litical significance structural of elements change well. as of This is nottheplace fora thoroughgoing assessment thepolitical roles played various domains: by life neighborhood, workplace, church, other organiof recreational families. zations, pursuits, Indeed, many these structural elements of are march together: residents working-class neighborhoods more to likely drink at at working-class worship churches with of bars, highdensities working-class and with more parishioners, comeintocontact at working-class employees their place of work.Preliminary analysesof the SouthBend data suggest thatthe is as for workplace especially while important a siteof initiation socialcontacts, and nurture thosecontacts residential proximity helpsto sustain through time. of workis notto support imAgain,thetheoretical the significance ourpresent of but to the of portance the neighborhood, rather support importance social as choice. structure circumscribing political Conclusion and Voters certainly are rational, they exhibit rational sensibly search procein information. seek dures obtaining political Voters tocontrol socially transmitted in information twodifferent to ways:they attempt locatepolitically compatible and discussion dissonant information a morefavorin partners, they reinterpret able light. Takenalone,however, thesefacts us little tell the regarding flowof information. crucial regarding fact transmitted The socially informational choice is notthatit is rational, rather it is structurally but that Few people imbedded. to intentionally expose themselves repugnant political views,butmanypeople haveno other alternative. rational Thus individuals maketheir choicesatparticular times,in particular places, subjectto particular constraints. Informational choicemaybe rational, it also depends but upona particular of configuration structural of circumstances the (Boudon, 1984). In terms thisanalysis, expression of political preference (political choice) is fundamentally dependent upon thepolitical choicesof others and (Schelling,1978). On theargument analysis offered choiceis a compromise between here,rational political private preferenceand socially supplied opportunity. of As a result, content sociallytransmitted the informationnota simple is of Citizens notexercise do lock gripcontrol function political over preference. the information acquirethrough informal sources.Ratherinformational they choiceis circumscribed thesocialcontext within which occurs. it by Thepolitical are for consequences especially profound minority preferences. to status turning Political minorities respond their disadvantaged by inward-by to of more resistant thecommunicatorsdisagreeable Thus becoming preferences. and of it is notsimply theperception content sociallytransmitted that information acrosscontext, itis also that but informational choicevaries acrossconvary




choicedoesnot,however, text. structured offset Contextually struccontextually tured Andthus levelsofresistance notshield minority do the supply. higher from thedebilitating of status. consequences itsminority In his seminalworkon the minority of consequences one-party voting, Warren Miller(1956) showed that imageof cohesive the minorities failed acto countforthepolitical and of disorganization disarray thosewho holdminority preferences. analysis Our that suggests minorities be bothcohesiveand in may At are to withthemajority disarray. thesame timethat they resistant contacts to (highly cohesive), they also unable control are suchcontacts, thus and are they bombarded dissonance-producing with information. Manuscript submittedSeptember 5 1986 Final manuscript 2 received March1987
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Robert and Huckfeldt John Sprague

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