Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That: The Effect of Personalized Appeals on Marriage Equality Campaigns
- 691 Downloads
An increasingly predominant strategy used by organizations seeking to increase support for gay marriage is to personalize the issue by focusing on individuals in the LGBT community. However, competing theoretical traditions (e.g., Allport’s contact theory, group threat, implicit bias) raise questions about whether this strategy has the desired effect. This paper presents results from an original field experiment conducted in coordination with a marriage equality organization. Callers who self-identified as a member of the LGBT community were less effective in soliciting donations compared to callers who did not self-identify, suggesting that personalization has a negative effect on persuasion efforts. The findings cut against the grain of the Allport (The nature of prejudice, 1954) hypothesis and have important implications for social advocacy organizations in terms of rhetorical and message strategy.
KeywordsMarriage equality Contact hypothesis Message personalization Group threat Implicit bias Social fundraising Field experiment Same-sex marriage Speaker credibility Political behavior
We would like to thank Don Green, Jamie Druckman, Jonathan Krasno, Aaron Michelson, Peter Aronow, Joshua Robison, Shawn Harrison, David Placey and Raechelle Clemmons for their helpful comments; Christy Aroopala for sharing a recent manuscript; and Carolyn Jenison and the staff at One Iowa, the non-profit organization that allowed us to conduct our experiment with them and their supporters. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers who provided substantial and helpful suggestions to improve an earlier draft.
- Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
- Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & McKenna K. Y. A. (2006). The contact hypothesis reconsidered: Interacting via the Internet. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 11: Article 7. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue3/amichai-hamburger.html. Accessed 24 Aug 2010.
- Chong, D., & Druckman, J. N. (2007b). A theory of framing and opinion formation in competitive elite environments. Journal of Communication, 57, 99–118.Google Scholar
- Druckman, J. N. (2001). On the limits of framing effects: Who can frame? Journal of Politics, 63, 1041–1066.Google Scholar
- Egan, P. J. (2010). Findings from a decade of polling on ballot measures regarding the legal status of same-sex couples. Report prepared for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. June 15, 2010. http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2010/06/15/campaigns-on-same-sex-marriage-ballot-measures-fail-to-move-voters.html. Accessed 28 Nov 2010.
- Gellman, A., Jeffrey, L., & Justin, P. (2010). Over time, a gay marriage groundswell. NewYorkTimes.com, August 21. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/weekinreview/22gay.html?_r=1&emc=eta1. Accessed 25 Aug 2010.
- Green, D. P. (2009). Regression adjustments to experimental data: Do David Freedman’s concerns apply to political science? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Sept. 3, Toronto. Available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1466886.
- Hewstone, M., & Brown, R. J. (1986). Contact is not enough: An intergroup perspective on the ‘contact hypothesis’. In M. Hewstone & R. Brown (Eds.), Contact and conflict in intergroup encounters. New York: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Hopper, R. (1998). What do we know about telephone conversation? In H. Sawhney & G. A. Barnett (Eds.), Progress in communication sciences: Advances in communications (Vol. 15, pp. 29–44). Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing Corporation.Google Scholar
- Key, V. O. (1949). Southern politics in state and nation. New York: A.A. Knopf.Google Scholar
- Lupia, A., & McCubbins, M. D. (1998). The democratic dilemma: Can citizens learn what they need to know?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Nelson, T. E., Sanbonmatsu, K., & McClerking, H. K. (2007). Playing a different race card: Examining the limits of elite influence on perceptions of racism. Journal of Politics, 69, 416–429.Google Scholar
- Overby, L. M., & Barth, J. (2002). Contact, community context, and public attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Polity, 34, 433–456.Google Scholar
- Peterson, K. (2004). 50-state rundown on gay marriage laws. Stateline.org. http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=15576. Accessed 28 Nov 2010.
- Saad, L. (2010). Americans’ acceptance of gay relations crosses 50% threshold. Gallup.com, May 25, 2010. http://www.gallup.com/poll/135764/Americans-Acceptance-Gay-Relations-Crosses-Threshold.aspx. Accessed 2 Dec 2010.
- Sherman, S. J., Crawford, M. T., & McConnell, A. R. (2004). Looking ahead as a technique to reduce resistance to persuasive attempts. In E. S. Knowles & J. A. Linn (Eds.), Resistance and persuasion (pp. 149–174). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
- Solomon, M. (2010). Our constitution is a living, breathing document. http://www.bilerico.com/2010/08/our_constitution_is_a_living_breathing_document.php. Accessed 4 Aug 2010.
- Stein, R. M., Post, S. S., & Rinden, A. L. (2000). Reconciling context and contact effects on racial attitudes. Political Research Quarterly, 53(2), 285–303.Google Scholar
- Vives, R. (2010). Activists mark Harvey Milk Day with door-to-door campaign. Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2010. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/23/local/la-me-harvey-milk-day-20100523. Accessed 4 Dec 2010.