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Melissa Michelson Lecture

The Menlo College Professor of Political Science will give a talk on her new book about LGBT rights
When Feb 16, 2017
from 03:00 PM to 04:30 PM
Where French House Grand Salon
Contact Name
Contact Phone 225-578-0083
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Melissa Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College, will give a talk on her new book, Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights.

American public opinion tends to be sticky. Although the news cycle might temporarily affect the public zeitgeist about abortion, the death penalty, or gun control, public support or opposition on these issues has remained remarkably constant over decades. But there are notable exceptions, particularly with regard to polarizing issues that highlight identity politics. Over the past three decades, public support for same-sex marriage has risen from scarcely more than a tenth to a majority of the population. Why have people's minds changed so dramatically on this issue, and why so quickly?

Listen, We Need to Talk tests a theory that when prominent people representing particular interest groups voice support for a culturally contentious issue, they sway the opinions of others who identify with the same group, even if the interest group and the issue at hand have no obvious connection. In fact, this book shows that the more the message counters prevailing beliefs or attitudes of a particular identity group, the more persuasive it is. While previous studies of political attitude change have looked at the effects of message priming (who delivers a message) on issues directly related to particular identity groups, this study is unique in that it looks at how identity priming affects attitudes and behaviors toward an issue that is not central or directly related to the targeted group. The authors prove their theory through a series of random experiments testing the positive effects of identity-based messaging regarding same-sex marriage among fans of professional sports, religious groups, and ethnoracial (Black and Latino) groups.