Political Waffling: Its Effects on the Evaluations of Observers

Hillary S. Hoffman, Charles S Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Politicians sometimes shift the stances that they take on issues. An experiment investigated the effect of such a shift upon observers' perceptions of and feelings about an ostensible candidate for public office. The target issue (private ownership of handguns) was chosen as being relatively emotional for some subjects and unemotional for others. Subjects were also selected (independently) as being either pro or con on the issue. The position taken by the stimulus person (who, in contrast to previous research, was identified as a candidate for office) was portrayed as initially being either similar or dissimilar to that of the subject. An assessment of the candidate's position 6 months later indicated either no change or a reversal of the initial position. Subjects' evaluations of the candidate on a variety of dimensions yielded a consistent pattern. The combination of initial agreement and final agreement was viewed more favorably than any other combination. Taken together, the data suggest two conclusions. First, there was no support in this context for the notion that a shift from disagreement to agreement would be especially valued (i.e., there was no “gain” effect). Second, in the realm of politics, people value consistent agreement with their own position—but they do not reward consistency per se.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-385
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume14
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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