Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Gibson. 1998. A sober second thought: An experiment in persuading Russians to tolerate. AJPS 42: 819-50.
Though Russians generally give intolerant responses to survey questions, Gibson wants to know how hard it would be to get them to change this response given some thought. To do so, Gibson uses an experimental survey design.
Like Zaller (1992) said, people form survey responses by sampling from the considerations that happen to be on their mind. By providing additional considerations after asking a survey question, we can see whether people change their minds--and thus learn more about their attitudes. Doing so makes sense--after all, politics is an interactive debate, not a single survey question.
Russians are asked about groups they don't like. Then, they are given a hypothetical scenario: the group that the respondent doesn't like has tried to get on the ballot for parliamentary elections, but Moscow refused to put them on it. Does the respondent support or oppose this decision? The respondent's answer is his "opening bid": is he tolerant or not? Roughly 2/3 of respondents start out intolerant.
If the respondent gave a tolerant response, he is then given three of the arguments frequently made for intolerance. After each, he has the opportunity to change his original response. (If the respondent started with an intolerant response, the reverse process occurs). These three arguments are presented in random order (I think) in order to determine their individual effects.
Those who started out intolerant were hard to persuade. Intolerance dropped from around 67% to around 50% after the three counterarguments. Those who started out tolerant were easier to persuade. Tolerance dropped from around 23% to around 13% after the three counterarguments.
Thus, if the media and public debate constantly promoted tolerance, we might expect to see Russians evenly divided. But if public debate constantly favored intolerance, we might expect to see 77% of Russians intolerant and only 13% tolerant (p 829).
Gibson then turns to predicting why some people are persuadable. He examines three general types of variables.
In the last portion, Gibson tries to predict "persuasibility." He runs two regressions, one predicting persuasion to tolerance and the other predicting persuasion to intolerance (p 840). If his Xs were really predicting a "persuasibility" trait, you would expect the Xs to have the same sign in both regressions--but they don't. Apparently, then, he isn't predicting "persuasibility"; instead, he's predicting the probability that you will be tolerant.
Research on similar subjects