Shaping voting intentions : an experimental study on the role of information in the Scottish independence referendum
Title: Shaping voting intentions : an experimental study on the role of information in the Scottish independence referendum
Author: MORISI, Davide
Series/Number: EUI RSCAS; 2014/88; EUDO - European Union Democracy Observatory
In a context of expanded media choice, understanding how voters select and interpret information to make voting decisions acquires substantial relevance. Drawing on former research in political psychology and political behaviour, the present study explores how provision of information affects voting intentions in the context of the Scottish independence referendum, by adopting a between-subjects experimental design. Results show that provision of information a) reduces indecision about how to vote, especially when voters are able to select the arguments to read; b) increases the likelihood to vote Yes, especially when voters are confronted with a balanced set of arguments; c) interacts with individual-level elements and increases the likelihood to vote Yes especially among those who are more politically active and more emotionally involved in the issue of independence. Provision of information also slightly increases the likelihood to vote No, but this occurs in general only when voters are able to select the arguments to read and in very few sub-groups. At the theoretical level, results provide further evidence supporting the mechanism of selective exposure and the occurrence of a ‘prior attitude effect’, but contradict the general tendency in the literature to interpret these mechanisms as unidirectional. The findings of the experiment reveal that effects of information are not linear since voters react differently to the provision of the same arguments, thus highlighting the need to take into account individual-level mediating factors, such as the level of indecision about how to vote.
Subject: Political behaviour; Public opinion; Voting intentions; Referendum campaigns; Scottish referendum
Type of Access: openAccess; openAccess