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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Does analogical reasoning affect political attitudes? Evidence from survey experiments
by Lynch, David John, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2009, 261; 3385561
Abstract (Summary)

Do analogies affect political attitudes? A growing literature in political science and psychology suggests that there are many reasons to think they do, as analogies often structure how we think about an issue, particularly when it is characterized by uncertainty. Here I present evidence that analogies can affect our attitudes, though they seem likely to do so only when used early in a debate and only if people do not yet have well established views on a subject. The evidence I present comes from survey experiments, each of which asked a reasonably representative sample of a North American public political questions which likely involve significant uncertainty in citizens' minds. I first look at how an analogy to Kosovo affects Quebeckers' views about the likelihood of Quebec receiving international recognition if it were to declare independence without holding a referendum. I find that it does affect people's assessment of the likelihood of recognition, even among people opposed to Quebec sovereignty, and does so in a manner distinguishable from other persuasive statements. However, it generally had no effect on people's broader attitudes toward independence. Next I show that when I presented the same Quebeckers with an analogy to the Great Depression and asked them how confident they were in the economy and whether or not they supported stimulus spending, it had no effect. A third survey shows that despite economists' worries that people are prone to believing that trade is somehow like war, such an analogy does not have any negative impact on Americans' views about trade. Nor, however, do analogies for economists' notion of comparative advantage. It also shows that many respondents pay little attention to these analogies. The findings are discussed in the context of the existing literature on analogical reasoning in political science and psychology.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: King, David C.
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 70/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Economics, Political science
Keywords: Analogy, Attitude change, Citizen competence, Persuasion, Political attitudes, Trade
Publication Number: 3385561
ISBN: 978-1-109-49473-0
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