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Anxiety, Sophistication, and Resistance to Persuasion: Evidence from a Quasi‐Experimental Survey on Global Climate Change

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Our contribution deals with the emotional and cognitive foundations of resistance to persuasive information. We rely on an original quasi‐experimental protocol that simulates the flow of information and the respondents' reactions to persuasive arguments on global climate change. Respondents in a representative sample (N = 604) were asked if they supported reduction of economic activity to reduce climate warming and were then provided, based on their support or disapproval for this first argument, with counterattitudinal arguments to test their resistance to persuasion. This article highlights that sophistication strengthens resistance to persuasion, whereas anxiety has a double effect: directly, it decreases resistance; indirectly, it interacts with political sophistication and makes sophisticates less likely to resist persuasion when facing arguments inconsistent with their previous beliefs. Nonanxious citizens, in turn, are more likely to resist persuasion when their political sophistication increases. We also provide evidence that the joint effect of anxiety and sophistication is moderated by the ideological identification of respondents.
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Keywords: Persuasion; anxiety; climate change; experimental design; resistance; sophistication

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2017

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