«Does Enclave Deliberation Polarize Opinions? ¨ ¨¨ Kimmo Gronlund • Kaisa Herne • Maija Setala Published online: 8 February 2015 Ó The ...»
First, we test the hypotheses on the effect of treatment on opinions. H1a states that a polarization of opinions occurs in like-minded groups, whereas H1b assumes that the opposite occurs in mixed groups. Table 4 demonstrates the development of opinions in the course of the experiment. The comparisons are made within enclaves and treatments, as well as in the control group. We compare opinions before (T1) the event, after deliberation (T4) and in the follow-up survey (T5) 3 weeks after the event. In the control group, the measurements were done before (T1) and after (T4) deliberation.
There were three statistically signiﬁcant opinion changes among those participants who took part in the deliberation event. All of these are in the direction of a more liberal attitude toward immigration. The most prominent change occurred among the participants of the con enclave deliberating in mixed groups. Here, the initial mean on the sum variable was 4.33, which increased to 6.12 after the
Mean values for the sum variable measuring opinions on immigration The variable can vary between 0 (against) and 14 (in favor) * p \ 0.05; ** p \ 0.01; *** p \ 0.001
experiment. The increase of 1.8 units is signiﬁcant at the 0.001 level and corroborates H1b. On average, the participants of the pro enclave deliberating in mixed groups did not, contrary to H1b, move toward the middle when deliberating with ‘‘the other side’’. Thus, depolarization in the mixed treatment was unilateral, only persons with anti-immigrant attitudes shifted toward the mean. Those initially permissive toward immigration did not alter their opinions.
Moving on to the like-minded treatment where polarization is most likely to occur, Table 4 shows that the con like-minded groups did not polarize in comparison with their initial opinions. On the contrary, participants in the con like-minded groups became more permissive toward immigration as a result of deliberation. The change of 0.67 units is not as large as among the con participants in the mixed groups, but still signiﬁcant at the 0.01 level. This development works against H1a. In the pro enclave, the like-minded groups show a barely statistically signiﬁcant (0.05) mean change of opinions. These groups polarized slightly, according to the assumption in H1a.8 Furthermore, the overall patterns found at the aggregate level were conﬁrmed in a separate group-by-group analysis. None of the small groups behaved in a deviant manner. In 9 (out of 11) of the mixed groups, in 4 (out of 5) of the con like-minded groups, and in 7 (out of 10) of the pro like-minded groups, the change in opinions toward immigration was positive from T1 to T4. Looking at the follow-up survey T5, we can see that the only statistically signiﬁcant change between deliberation and the follow-up survey was a continued tendency among the con like-minded groups to become more tolerant toward immigration. At T5, the participants of the con likeminded treatment had shifted from 5.05 before deliberation to 6.15. This change corresponds to a 1.1-unit increase on the 14-item scale (p \ 0.001).
Moving on to comparing the treatment groups with the control group, it can be seen that attitudes toward immigration changed also in the control group. Within the control group, the con enclave became slightly more permissive (change 0.49), whereas the pro enclave became slightly more critical (change -0.51). In other words, participation in a three wave (T1, T2, and T4) panel study on immigration seems to have led to a de-polarization of opinions among the control group. It may be the case that people who responded to the survey became more aware of the immigration issue even though they did not participate in the deliberation event.
They may, for example, have sought more information on their own and reﬂected on it. Another possible explanation is the statistical phenomenon known as ‘regression to the mean’. It occurs when the same sample is measured twice, especially when the used measurement is not accurate. In survey research, measurement errors are bound to occur and observations with the most extreme values tend to regress towards the mean at the second measurement (Torgerson and Torgerson 2008, 10–15). When designing the experiment, we tried to minimize measurement errors The non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test conﬁrms the obtained results, T1–T4, in the four group types (for con participants in like-minded groups p = 0.005; for con in mixed groups p = 0.000; for pro in like-minded groups p = 0.032; and for pro in mixed groups p = 0.899). Likewise, the Mann–Whitney test conﬁrms the overall pattern about the differences between treatments at T1 (for the difference between con participants in like-minded and mixed groups p = 0.021; between pro participants in likeminded and mixed groups p = 0.087), and at T4 (between con participants in like-minded and mixed groups p = 0.294; between pro participants in like-minded and mixed groups p = 0.002).
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by creating an index that consists of 14 items. Thus, it should be a more accurate measurement of opinions toward immigration than a single variable or an index consisting of only a few items. Still, survey questions with Likert scales do not provide an exact measure and the possibility of regression to the mean both in the control group and the treatment groups cannot be ruled out. However, the fact that the opinion changes in the control group did not follow the same patterns as the opinion changes in the experimental groups suggests that deliberation had a genuine effect on opinions. It is also important to note that both the experimental and the control group was formed randomly from those willing to participate in the deliberation event, indicating that a self-selection bias cannot account for the differences observed between the two groups.
Table 4 also shows a comparison within enclaves at T1, which helps to trace possible initial differences between the subjects who were randomly allocated into the two treatments within both enclaves. Despite random assignment, there were some differences between the participants in the like-minded and the mixed treatment in both enclaves. In the con enclave the participants of the like-minded treatment were somewhat more moderate than the participants in the mixed treatment. In the pro enclave, the opposite was the case, i.e. the like-minded treatment consisted of more liberal participants then the mixed treatment. It is hard to decipher whether this initial division had any inﬂuence on the outcome within the treatments. However, in order to understand how extremes and moderates behaved within both treatments, we have conducted additional analyses further below (Table 6).
Next, in order to test H2a and H2b we analyze knowledge change in the course of the experiment. H2a suggests that deliberation in like-minded groups ampliﬁes cognitive errors, whereas H2b anticipates that deliberation in mixed groups corrects cognitive errors. The knowledge questions were grouped in three subsets. First, there were six questions pertaining to immigration where information was given in the beginning of the deliberation event. Second, there were four questions on immigration where information was not given by the organizers. Third, there were ﬁve questions measuring general political knowledge. In Fig. 3, we look at the learning effects by treatment and enclave. The ﬁgure only includes the ten items related to immigration knowledge (for a detailed development of all knowledge items, see Appendix 2).
The participants learned a lot during the experiment. The obtained learning effects were large and similar in all four types of groups and we can conclude that neither treatment nor initial attitudes toward immigration had an effect on the learning curve. We can also see that the pre-deliberation knowledge shares were quite similar across enclaves and treatments. For all participants, the mean share of correct answers increased from 43 to 63 %, and the information gains were recorded for those questions where information was given at the event (see Appendix 2). This indicates that knowledge gains occurred both in mixed and like-minded groups to a similar degree, working against H2a. Initially, there were small differences within enclaves between the subjects who were randomly assigned to the like-minded versus mixed treatments. These differences were not statistically signiﬁcant, and neither were the differences within enclaves at T4.
1008 Polit Behav (2015) 37:995–1020 Fig. 3 Knowledge gains according to enclave and treatment. Shares of correct answers Within the set of questions relating to immigration where no information was provided by the organizers there were two open-ended questions (questions 9 and 10 in Appendix 2),9 which can be used to examine the hypotheses concerning cognitive errors. These questions pertained to the level of unemployment among immigrants (correct answer 27 %) and the level of social security beneﬁts received by an unemployed immigrant (correct answer 757 Euros per month). It can be assumed that negative attitudes toward immigration are, especially, related to people’s perceptions of social problems and costs caused by immigration. Therefore, it may All other knowledge items were put forward as multiple choice questions with four alternatives.
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be assumed that those who have negative attitudes toward immigration might overestimate both the level of unemployment and social security beneﬁts, and the opposite could be the case among supporters of immigration.
Whereas the coding of the open-ended questions in Appendix 3 follows the binary logic of ‘correct’ and ‘non-correct’10 answers, we have also examined the distance of each respondent’s answer from the correct answer. When looking at the responses to the open questions before deliberation (T3), it turns out that the pro enclave participants, in particular, tended to underestimate the unemployment rate and the level of social security (42.2 % of the participants in the con enclave and 53.3 % in the pro enclave underestimated the unemployment rate. The level of social security beneﬁts for immigrants was underestimated by 67.5 % in the con enclave and 68.1 % in the pro enclave). There were clearer differences between enclaves when we look at overestimation, which gives some support to the assumption that attitudes toward immigration are related to the perceptions of the costs of immigration. Namely, 33.7 % of the participants in the con enclave overestimated the unemployment rate as opposed to 23.3 % in the pro enclave. The level of social beneﬁts was overestimated by 21.7 % of the participants in the con enclave as opposed to 10.1 % in the pro enclave. However, the responses to the open-ended questions after deliberation (T4) do not support the hypotheses on the ampliﬁcation of cognitive errors. The differences in the under- or overestimation of the unemployment rate and social security beneﬁts are not statistically signiﬁcant when comparing the enclaves and treatments with each other.
To sum up, none of our hypotheses has gained clear support so far. We do not trace polarization effects, with the partial exception of the pro participants in likeminded groups, and the differences between the like-minded and the mixed treatments are modest so far. Moreover, the obtained learning curves are similar in all four types of groups, and we cannot see any results supporting the assumption of increased cognitive errors in the like-minded treatment. The major conclusion is that as a result of deliberation most subjects became more tolerant toward immigration, and that at the group level no one became less tolerant. In the next part of the empirical analysis, we will try to disentangle the observed group level results by looking at individuals.
Further analyses on the impact of deliberation
In order to understand the scope of opinion changes at the individual level, Table 5 focuses on participants who changed sides as a result of deliberation. By changing sides we mean a shift from being initially against immigration to becoming proimmigration as a result of deliberation, or vice versa. The threshold for changing sides is set at 7.5 on the sum variable, i.e. in the middle of the original cutoff points for forming the con and pro enclaves. If a person in the con enclave moved above The intervals of acceptance for correct answers were deﬁned as follow: 24–30 % for the unemployment rate, 700–800 EUR for the integration assistance. The intervals were chosen by taking into account the dispersion of answers and the nature of the question. These open questions proved to be difﬁcult but we did not want to stretch the category of ‘correct answer’ too far from the correct numbers.
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7.5 after deliberation, (s)he is considered to have changed sides; a person in the pro enclave should have moved below 7.5 in order to have changed sides concerning opinions on immigration. Table 5 compares the participants’ pre and post deliberation attitudes. Moreover, the post deliberation attitudes are analyzed both at the end of the deliberation event (T4) and in the follow-up survey (T5).
Changing sides occurred almost exclusively among persons who were initially against immigration. This corroborates the earlier ﬁnding that the largest opinion changes took place among the participants with anti-immigration attitudes. At the end of the deliberation event (T4), 20 persons belonging to the con enclave had become permissive toward immigration; the sum variable for immigration attitudes had, for their part, exceeded the value of 7.5 on the 0–14 point scale. A majority of these, 14 people, were subject to the mixed treatment. When people with antiimmigrant attitudes faced counter-arguments, many of them became clearly more positive toward immigration. However, also six people in the con like-minded groups changed sides at T4. No one in the pro enclave became restrictive toward immigration as a result of deliberation.