Abstract This study investigates the indirect effect of political identity salience on voting intention through in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports. A moderated mediation model in which political identity salience is linked to voting intention through group difference of perceived influence of polling reports only for supporters of a losing candidate was established. To test the model, a survey experiment using a nationally representative sample of general voters was conducted before the 2012 presidential election in South Korea (N = 523). Results of the conditional process analysis show that the moderated mediation is statistically significant. Implications of the findings are discussed. Voters are often asked political questions during election campaigns, and research has shown that merely being asked such questions can render political identity salient (Reid, 2012). For example, when voters respond to questions regarding which candidate they support, their political identity as a supporter of a candidate would become salient in their minds. Further, the salience of political identity may affect voters’ subsequent perceptions of political information as well as their political behaviors (Nisbet & Myers, 2010). In the current study, I investigate how the salience of political identity is linked to voting intention in the context of the 2012 South Korean presidential election. Voter turnout in the election was 75.8%, which was 12.8% point higher than the previous election. Although this increase can be explained by the interplay of numerous social, political, and individual factors (Conway, 2000), I consider previous research findings showing that inducing people to identify with a political party may increase the likelihood that they will vote in an upcoming election (Gerber, Huber, & Washington, 2010). In the current study, I aim to extend this line of research by exploring another possibility that priming individual voters’ political identity may affect their voting intention through their perceptions of the influence of polling reports. Perceived Influence of Polling Reports Previous research has found that people’s perceptions of the effects of polling reports on themselves and others have an impact on their political attitudes and behavior (Pan, Abisaid, Paek, Sun, & Houden, 2006; Wei, Lo, & Lu, 2011). The impact of the perceived influence of polling reports has been studied in terms of the third-person effect hypothesis, which posits that people tend to perceive a mediated message as having more influence on others than on themselves (Davison, 1983). Researchers have attempted to explain the psychological mechanism underlying the perceived self-other discrepancy by drawing on diverse psychological theories and concepts, such as attribution theory (Gunther, 1991), optimistic bias (Gunther & Mundy, 1993), social judgment (Paek, Pan, Sun, Abisaid, & Houden, 2005), and the differential perceptual process of media effect schema (Perloff, 1996). Another explanation for the self-other asymmetry involves the introspection illusion (Pronin, 2009). According to this concept, as people have direct access only to their own introspection, they tend to think that others differ from them in terms of processing and responding to information (Pronin, 2009; Rosenthal, Detenber, & Rojas, 2015). Further, individuals are more likely to view the introspection of those they consider to be similar to themselves as both similar to their own introspection and more accurate than the introspection of others perceived as unlike themselves (Pronin, 2009). The similarity and difference between self and others can be viewed as falling along a continuum from “like me” to “not like me,” whereby the self-other perceptual gap is greater when the others are described as “not like me” (Duck, Hogg, & Terry, 1998, p. 3). That is, similar others are distinguished from different others in group comparisons. To explain the group distinction, social identity theory and self-categorization theory have been used (Scharrer, 2002). Social identity is part of an individual’s self-concept deriving from the perception that he or she belongs to a given social group and that belonging to this group is meaningful (Abrams & Hogg, 1990). According to social identity theory, to enhance their self-concept and self-esteem, individuals tend to compare themselves with others on certain relevant dimensions, and this tendency extends to comparisons between in-groups and out-groups (Abrams & Hogg, 1990). Self-categorization theory submits that social identities form and operate through a cognitive process that highlights perceived similarities between the self and in-groups as well as perceived differences between the self and out-groups (Mastro, Tamborini, & Hullett, 2005; Turner, 1991). Hence, an individual would contrast an out-group with an in-group and would also expect mediated messages, such as polling reports, to affect these groups differently (Duck, Hogg, & Terry, 1995). Identity Salience The in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports may be subject to identity salience of individuals. The self is composed of multiple social identities, but a social identity that is salient in a certain situation is more likely to lead the perceiver to define the situation in a way that is related to that particular social identity (Brenner, Serpe, & Stryker, 2014). If a social identity is particularly salient, the characteristics of the social group with which an individual identifies are likely to become normative for that individual. Thus, heightening the salience of a social identity can influence subsequent perceptions and behaviors in ways that conform to that identity (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987). The psychological mechanism underlying the effect of social identity salience is cognitive priming, a memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus affects subsequent responses to another stimulus (Roskos-Ewoldsen, Roskos-Ewoldsen, & Carpentier, 2009). Priming research has its roots in cognitive psychology research on the structure and representation of information within models of memory. In these models, it is assumed that information is stored in memory in the form of nodes and that each node represents a concept. These nodes can be connected to related nodes through the activation of associative pathways. Research has demonstrated that the strength of a priming effect is a dual function of the intensity and recency of a priming event (Roskos-Ewoldsen et al., 2009). Based on the most recently and intensively primed group membership, people recognize features distinguishing the in-group from other groups and make judgments on the group comparison (Jackson, 2011; Tajfel, 1982). In the context of the current study, priming political identity is expected to influence voters’ subsequent perceptions of the impact of polling reports on political in- and out-groups. Political Identity Research shows that individuals’ political identity affects their perceptions of the impact of political communication. For example, members of the political out-group are judged to be more influenced by campaign messages from the out-group candidate than members of the political in-group (Meirick, 2004). Political identity is understood as a form of collective social identity situated in a political context resulting from social and cultural influences as well as cognitive processes (Nisbet & Myers, 2010). Party identification is generally used to represent political identity in established democracies in the Western world. However, presidential candidate preference is also frequently used in South Korea, where the party system is viewed as unstable and characterized by frequent change (Hermanns, 2009; Shin, 2012). Given that priming social identity may heighten the salience of social identity, voters whose political identity is primed would be more likely to perceive the influence of polling reports in regard to their political identity. Hence, the perceived difference in the influence of polling reports on the political in- and out-groups is expected to be greater for those whose political identity is primed than for those whose political identity is not primed. H1: The perceived influence of polling reports on the out-group relative to the in-group is greater when political identity is primed than when it is not primed. The group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports may be linked to the intention to vote. The group difference increases as the perceived influence on the out-group increases and/or the perceived influence on the in-group decreases. The model of influence of presumed influence derived from the third-person effect research indicates that belief in undesirable media influence on others may lead people to take actions to prevent the negative effects of mediated messages (Gunther, Perloff, & Tsfati, 2008; Gunther & Storey, 2003). In the current study, supporters of a losing candidate who perceive polling reports as having a greater influence on out-group members toward the out-group candidate would be more likely to be motivated to vote as a corrective action to counterbalance the perceived undesirable effect of polling reports (Rojas, 2010). Supporters of a winning candidate would be less likely to exhibit this association because polling reports indicating that their candidate is winning would not motivate them to take a corrective action. Hence, it is hypothesized that candidate preference moderates the association between group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports and voting intention. H2: The difference in the perceived influence of polling reports between the out-group and the in-group is positively related to voting intention only for those who support a losing candidate. Based on the literatures reviewed for H1 and H2, a moderated mediation model in which political identity salience has an indirect effect on voting intention via in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports particularly for supporters of a losing candidate is proposed (see Figure 1). H3: Political identity salience is linked to voting intention through in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports only for supporters of a losing candidate. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Conceptual model of conditional indirect effect of political identity salience on voting intention through in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Conceptual model of conditional indirect effect of political identity salience on voting intention through in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports Method To test the hypotheses, a national survey using a representative sample of 626 general voters was conducted 3 weeks before the 2012 presidential election in South Korea. In the election, the public was split between Keun Hye Park, the nominee for the ruling party, representing the conservative group and Jae In Moon, the candidate for the main opposition party, representing the progressive group. Given the political environment in South Korea, it is reasonable to expect supporters of Moon to perceive supporters of Park as out-group members and view other supporters of Moon as in-group members, and for supporters of Park to show the corresponding pattern. For data collection, computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) with random digit dialing was used, which made it possible to reach cellular phones as well as landlines. The survey was conducted by a local research firm. As many as two calls were made to each number, and the response rate was 21% using AAPOR calculation Response Rate 3 (RR3) (American Association for Public Opinion Research, 2011). The CATI was programmed to randomly assign each participant to one of two groups—the identity salience group or the control group. At the beginning of the survey, the participants in the identity salience group were asked about their political affiliation and to identify the candidate for whom they intended to vote in the upcoming election. However, the participants in the control group were not asked about their political affiliation and candidate preference until the end of the survey. After excluding those who did not support either Moon or Park, the composition of the final sample (N = 523) was not significantly different from the composition of the Korean population in terms of sex, age, and education (Korean Statistical Information Service, 2010). Half (50.1%) of the respondents in the final sample were female, the mean age was 46.8 (SD = 15.48), and 43.4% of the respondents held at least a bachelor’s degree. Measures To measure the perceived influence of polling reports, the participants were directed to respond to the question items as follows: “Think about the effects that television news reports of election poll results would have on your/other general voters/Park supporters’/Moon supporters’ voting decision. Overall, how much would you/other general voters/Park supporters/Moon supporters be affected? (Greater numbers indicate stronger influence.)” Each of the five-point scale question items was followed by an item asking whether the influence would be toward Park or Moon. Integration of the two types of questions produced four 9-point scale items of perceived effect ranging from −4 for toward Moon to 4 for toward Park with 0 as no influence at all. The items for the self and other general voters were not used in the analyses. The responses to the integrated scales were reverse coded for Park supporters, which generated two 9-point scale items of perceived effect from −4 for toward in-group candidate to 4 for toward out-group candidate, with 0 as no influence at all. The group difference of perceived influence was calculated by subtracting the score of the perceived effect on the in-group from the score of the perceived effect on the out-group (M = 1.53, SD = 2.11). The participants’ intention to vote in the 2012 presidential election was measured by a four-point scale item ranging from 1 for I would not vote at all to 4 for I definitely would vote (M = 2.64, SD = 1.13). The participants were asked to name the candidate they would support in the upcoming presidential election. As the majority of news reports of election poll results at the time of data collection indicated that Moon was behind in the race (Ramstad, 2012), those who responded that they would vote for Moon were considered supporters of a losing candidate (= 1). Park supporters were coded 0 for support of losing candidate. The participants who were asked to state their political affiliation and the candidate they would support in the upcoming election at the beginning of the survey were coded 1 for political identity salience. To measure the salience of political identity, the respondents were directed to indicate the extent to which they agreed with the following sentence: “I have come to think of myself as a supporter of the candidate for whom I will vote in the upcoming election” on a four-point scale ranging from 1 for not at all to 4 for very much (M = 2.30, SD = 1.10). This item was selected from a set of items to measure the degree to which a social identity is prominent to the self (Brenner etal., 2014). Results The results of an independent samples t test show that the degree of political identity salience was higher in the political identity salience group (M = 2.45, SD = 1.12) than in the control group (M = 2.17, SD = 1.07), t(521) = 2.90, p = .004, d = 0.28. The two groups did not differ from each other statistically significantly in terms of sex, t(521) = 1.10, p = .27, d = 0.05, age, t(521) = −1.42, p = .16, d = −1.92, education, t(521) = 1.05, p = .29, d = 0.12, household income, t(521) = 0.96, p = .34, d = 0.21, and support of losing candidate, t(521) = −1.62, p = .11, d = −0.07. As the manipulation was successful, the hypotheses were tested. A conditional model with political identity salience as the independent variable, voting intention as the outcome variable, group difference of perceived influence as the mediator, and support of losing candidate as the moderator was used (Hayes, 2013; Model 14). Sex, age, education, and household income were included as control variables. The estimates and bias corrected 95% confidence intervals (CIs) with 5,000 bootstrap samples demonstrate that the route from political identity salience to group difference of perceived influence is statistically significant, b = 0.25, SE = 0.09, p = .004, 95% CI [0.08, 0.42], supporting H1. The results also indicate that the moderation of support of losing candidate in the association between group difference of perceived influence and voting intention is statistically significant, b = 0.35, SE = 0.10, p < .001, 95% CI [0.15, 0.56] (see Figure 2). The association was statistically significant only for Moon supporters (b = 0.30, SE = 0.08, p < .001; b = −0.05, SE = 0.06, p = .46 for Park supporters). H2 was, therefore, supported. Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Indirect effect of political identity salience on voting intention through in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of election polling news moderated by candidate preference Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Indirect effect of political identity salience on voting intention through in-group-out-group difference in the perceived influence of election polling news moderated by candidate preference Finally, the results show that the indirect effect of political identity salience on voting intention through group difference of perceived influence is not statistically significant for Park supporters, z = −0.80, 95% CI [−0.05, 0.02], whereas the indirect effect is statistically significant for Moon supporters, z = 2.49, 95% CI [0.03, 0.15]. According to the index of moderated mediation, the indirect effect is significantly different between Park supporters and Moon supporters, z = 2.34, 95% CI [0.03, 0.18]. H3 was supported. Discussion This study investigates the effect of political identity salience on voting intention via group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports. A survey experiment using a nationally representative sample of general voters was conducted in South Korea. The level of political identity salience was manipulated, and it was examined whether the difference in the perceived influence of polling reports on the in- and out-groups is greater when political identity is more salient. The results demonstrate that group difference in perceived influence is greater in the political identity salience group than in the control group, as expected. The in-group-out-group difference in perceived influence, in turn, is linked to voting intention only for supporters of a losing candidate. It is well known that polling reports may influence political behaviors as well as perceptions of public opinion (Lavrakas & Traugott, 2000). The results of the current study show that voters respond to the perceived influence of polling reports in line with their currently salient political identity. These results suggest that the activation of political identity when the participants responded to the survey questions regarding political affiliation and candidate preference may have affected their subsequent perceptions of political news or events, which, in turn, may have influenced their voting intention. It should be noted that the indirect effect was observed only for supporters of Moon, who was behind in the race. Moon supporters who perceived polling reports as having a greater influence toward Park would have been more motivated to vote in reaction to the undesirable effect of polling reports. The corrective behavior, among the categories of behavioral consequences of the third-person perception, is relevant to explain this link between perceived influence of polling reports and intention to vote (Rojas, 2010). Also, previous research indicates that the perceived influence of polling news in favor of the winning candidate may cause anxiety among supporters of a losing candidate (Kim, 2016). Given that anxiety may promote political behaviors (Panagopoulos, 2010), the positive link between the group difference in perceived influence and the voting intention of supporters of a losing candidate can be attributed at least in part to emotional responses. In future research with measures of emotions included, questions pertaining to whether and how emotions function in this regard could be examined further. The findings that political identity salience may increase group difference in the perceived influence of polling reports are consistent with previous research indicating that perceived self-other gaps in influence vary according to the reference group when social identity is salient (Duck et al., 1998). The oppositional out-group is perceived to be in a more disagreeable position compared with the in-group when social identity is primed to be salient (Ledgerwood & Chaiken, 2007). That is, the salience of political identity can lead to a more biased perception of media influence through assimilation with the accepted in-group and a contrast with the rejected out-group. However, in the present study, we examined the influence of political identity salience on perceived influence and behavioral intention in only one context. Although we did endeavor to increase the generalizability of the findings by using a representative sample, we cannot eliminate the possibility that the same results would not be observed in other countries where social, political, and cultural backgrounds differ from those of South Korea. It is necessary to test the hypotheses in more diverse contexts in future research. There are other limitations. The degree of political identity salience was measured by a single item, and the question had the potential to remind respondents of their candidate preference. It is possible that the manipulation check question affected the respondents’ perceptions of the influence of polls on Moon supporters and Park supporters. In future research, a pilot test using different methods to render political identity salient and to check how the manipulations work would improve the validity of the findings. Also, this study did not measure actual voting behavior. People tend to overestimate the likelihood that they will vote (Silver, Abramson, & Anderson, 1986). A study shows that among those who intend to vote, about 70% do so (Achen & Blais, 2016). Although behavioral intention is the closest determinant of behavior (Ajzen, 1991) and the intention to vote has often been used as a dependent variable in social science research (Achen & Blais, 2016), the discrepancy between voting intention and actual voting still exists. A more advanced research design to measure actual voting behavior could be used in future research. Finally, because of the cross-sectional nature of the data, there is a possibility that voting intention affected the perceived influence of polling reports. Despite the limitations, the current study contributes to the research on the perceived influence of polling reports and its impact on political behaviors. 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International Journal of Public Opinion Research – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 1, 2018
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