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Political Behaviour/Sociology

F08 - Identity Politics and Public Opinion

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 08:45am to 10:15am | Location: SWING 107

Chair/Président/Présidente : Patrick Fournier (Université de Montréal)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : John McAndrews (University of Toronto)

Talking Across Boundaries: Intergroup Disagreement and Outgroup Attitudes: Edana Beauvais (McGill University), Dietlind Stolle (McGill University)
Abstract: Policy disputes often overlap with salient social identities. Does hearing counterarguments to a policy position from an out-group member worsen people's attitudes toward the out-group? Can a communication style that induces empathy prevent this backlash of negative out-group evaluations? We use a survey experiment to identify how exposing respondents to a counterargument from either a White or Indigenous speaker impacts racial attitudes. In our study, a representative sample of Canadians are asked their opinion about a controversial policy to build a pipeline, a federal project that has support and opposition from different Indigenous groups. Regardless of respondents' policy preferences, they are randomly assigned to watch a video depicting a counterargument to their position from either an Indigenous or White speaker. Half receive the counterargument in a rational argumentation communication style, which is more closely associated with Western legal and political debate (Young 2000). The other half of respondents receive the counterargument in a narrative perspective-taking communication style, more closely associated with Indigenous storytelling (Stark 2013). We hypothesize that rational argumentation communication style elicits a backlash and worsens racial attitudes, while a narrative perspective-taking style suppresses this backlash by developing relational understanding and eliciting empathy. One of our aims is to show that taking Indigenous practices seriously offers lessons for improving intergroup attitudes and deepening democracy.


The Psychology of Sexists: Gender, Defensive Self-esteem, and its Consequences for Politics: Jordan Mansell (Université du Québec à Montréal), Tania Gosselin (Université du Québec à Montréal), Allison Harell (Université du Québec à Montréal), Melanee Thomas (University of Calgary)
Abstract: Political scientists are becoming increasingly interested in psychological traits as predictors of political attitudes. In this study, we investigate the psychological traits associated with prejudicial attitudes towards women. Previous research on personality traits and social conditions associated with prejudicial attitudes towards women suggests that sexist individuals may possess a condition known as defensive self-esteem (Jordan et al., 2003). Defensive self-esteem is a psychological condition in which individuals claim to possess a high level of explicit self-esteem, but whose implicit esteem is low, or unstable. Defensive self-esteem is commonly associated with individuals with egocentric or narcissistic personalities, personalities marked by tendencies towards angry, aggressive, childish, or dismissive behaviors towards others in response to correction, criticism, or failure. We theorize that sexist attitudes towards women may be a consequence of an ego protection mechanism aimed at avoiding the downgrading of one’s self-esteem in individuals with low or unstable self-esteem. Using a sample of (n=800) participants we test this hypothesis using a novel experiment in which we threaten an individual’s self-esteem by providing them with negative feedback about their performance on a competitive behavior task after which we assess their levels of sexist attitudes. We hypothesize that men with high explicit, but low implicit, self-esteem will show a disproportionate increase in sexist attitudes in response to negative feedback about their performance, especially when the feedback compares them negatively to women. We do not expect that negative feedback will impact women’s sexist attitudes but hypothesize that it may decrease their political efficacy and ambition.