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Social Identity, Message Choice, and Attitude: How Priming National Identity Shapes Attitudes Toward Immigrants via News Selection

Fri, May 26, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 2, Indigo Ballroom H


This study examines social identity’s influence on political attitudes, both directly and as mediated through exposure to political content. We argue that increasing a social identity’s salience will promote affective polarization, and we consider whether it has an indirect influence mediated by information selection processes. We use an online experiment with a diverse sample of American immigration opponents to test the effects of priming national identity on the selection of attitude-affirming and counter-attitudinal information about immigration, and on several indicators of affective polarization. As anticipated, priming national identity directly reinforces affective polarization. Its net indirect effect, however, is negligible. Priming national identity makes people more likely to select stories both supporting and opposing their attitudes, and the two types of exposure have opposing influences on polarization. Although priming national identity strengthens attitudes, subsequent information choice does not exacerbate, and may actually minimize, resultant polarization. We discuss practical and theoretical implications.