Source Credibility in the Age of Misinformation: Dominik Stecula (University of British Columbia) Abstract: In this paper, I examine how vulnerable citizens are to fake news, which is defined as fabricated content deceptively presented as real news. Although the term “fake news” lost its meaning since its emergence during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, becoming a partisan insult of sorts, the problems that it highlights, such as potential gullibility of the people to false information or inability to separate good sources of information from questionable ones, are key to a well-functioning democracy. Much research on “fake news” has focused on how influential it might have been in influencing the vote, but a more fundamental question of source credibility remains unexplored. In the age of a fragmented media landscape, where many citizens get their news from social media, it becomes critical to understand what sources are viewed as credible by the public and what factors drive that perception. Utilizing original data from an internet panel of American respondents, I examine how vulnerable people are to sources of questionable quality, and why. The specific research questions I examine are: what media outlets are viewed as credible? Are people able to spot fake news sources? How does news content moderate the perception of source credibility?
Political Opinion Leaders and Normative Change: A Trump Effect across the Canada/US Border?: Mark Pickup (Simon Fraser University) Abstract: Injunctive-norms are shared rules of behavior that people expect others to follow and believe others expect them to follow in kind. They reflect shared perceptions of what people ought to do. Since norms are based on expectations of what others believe, they can shift in response to what others do and say. They can respond to what trendsetters – e.g., highly visible media or political leaders – say or do. There is evidence that Trump as a trendsetter has weakened norms against anti-immigrant attitudes in the US. Our question is whether Trump’s actions and speech have affected norms north of the border and whether that effect is mitigated by the Canadian identity. Using two studies we test the effect of impressions of Trump and the Canadian identity on the norm against expressing anti-immigrant attitudes. This design allows us to test the effect of priming Trump, Canadian identity and their interaction on a highly relevant norm of behaviour.
An Exceptional Country? Immigration Attitudes, Macroeconomics, Culture and Partisanship in Canada, 1980-2017: Keith Banting (Queen's University), Stuart Soroka (University of Michigan) Abstract: This paper analyzes the factors that shape the evolution of Canadians’ attitudes towards immigration. We examine public support for immigration over more than three decades, drawing on a unique data set from Environics Focus Canada. We choose this longer timeframe because Canadians have not always been highly supportive of immigration. Until the mid-1990s, close to two-thirds of Canadians agreed that there was too much immigration into the country. Public attitudes then shifted abruptly. Beginning in the mid-1990s, support for immigration rose dramatically, and by the early 2000s, approximately two-thirds of Canadians disagreed that immigration levels were too high. This is a remarkable change in such a short period. To explain this transition, we develop a model of the factors that shape public attitudes to immigration more generally. Our findings challenge popular narratives that Canada’s comfort with high levels of immigration reflects a distinctive culture and national identity which celebrate diversity. We challenge this view in three ways. First, change in Canadian attitudes to immigration are shaped by the same factors at work in other countries. Second, the rapid change in attitudes in the mid-1990s was driven strongly by economic factors, and Canadians’ continuing support for immigration since then reflects economic factors as much as cultural ones. Third, partisan political drivers were not important in the 1990s transition, but have emerged more strongly since 2004, reflecting greater polarization in party politics generally and generating greater political contestation about immigration and immigrants.
Do Canadians Change Their Policy Preferences When They Change Parties?: Eric Guntermann (University of California, Berkeley) Abstract: In recent years, considerable evidence has emerged that citizens adjust their policy preferences to reflect their party preferences. The implication of this party following perspective is that, when citizens change their vote choice, they should then adopt the policy positions of their new party. In Canada, The centrist Liberals do well when the right-of-centre Conservatives and left-of-centre NDP are weak and vice versa. Consequently, voters who shift from the Liberals to the Conservative Party or NDP in an election should then move their policy preferences in the direction of the positions of their new party. Conversely, voters who move to the Liberals from either the Conservatives or NDP should move their policy preferences towards the centre. This paper uses panel data from the Canadian Election Study to test these expectations.