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According to theories of motivated reasoning, attempts to persuade political opponents are often counterproductive because they end up strengthening opponents' initial views via directional motivations. Drawing on evidence from 23 randomized survey experiments, Persuasion in Parallel (The University of Chicago Press, 2023) shows that the predicted "backlash" fails to materialize. Instead, the experiments show that the effects of persuasive messages are similar for many subdivisions of society, including policy opponents and proponents, Republicans and Democrats, young and old, and men and women. The overarching conclusion is that persuasion occurs in parallel: even though Americans differ tremendously in their baseline views on many political issues, they are quite similar in their responses to information. This empirical pattern casts serious doubt on the motivated reasoning framework for understanding information processing. The political implication of this work is that we should not give up trying to persuade the other side.


  • Alexander Coppock (Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University)

    Alexander Coppock

    Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University

    Alexander Coppock is associate professor (on term) of political science at Yale University, where he specializes in political persuasion and research design. He is the author of Persuasion in Parallel, which synthesizes evidence from 23 randomized experiments to show that evengroups that differ tremendously in their baseline attidues change their minds in response to new information quite similarly. Coppock is also the co-author of Research Design in the Social Sciences: Declare, Diagnose, Redesign, a research design textbook that introduces a language for describing research designs and an algorithm for evaluating their properties. His recent work in peer-reviewed journals presents meta-analyses of list experiments, campaign advertisement experiments, candidate choice experiments, and employment audit experiments.

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