Trading Arguments: Opinion Updating in the Context of International Trade Agreements

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2020
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Nguyen, Quynh
Bernauer, Thomas
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Public opinion can often become a key challenge to international cooperation efforts. In their attempt to garner support for their position, stakeholders fight for the hearts and minds of the public based on arguments about the consequences of different policy options. But to what extent do individuals' preferences change when exposed to such information? And how does this depend on the information being congruent or contradictory to pre-existing preferences? We address these questions in the context of the negotiations on the potentially largest regional trade agreement in history: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Based on a two-waves-panel-survey-experiment fielded in Germany and the United States, we examine how individuals' prior opinion influences the way they process new information. We argue that individuals' existing priors about how they generally think about economic openness interact with new information to inform their opinion about the specific policy proposal at hand. Our experimental results show that while prior opinion constrains opinion updating to some degree, overall, citizens update their existing beliefs in line with new information. This updating process can even result in respondents changing their opinion, although only in one direction: namely to turn from a TTIP supporter to a TTIP opponent.

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ISO 690SPILKER, Gabriele, Quynh NGUYEN, Thomas BERNAUER, 2020. Trading Arguments: Opinion Updating in the Context of International Trade Agreements. In: International Studies Quarterly. Oxford University Press. 2020, 64(4), pp. 929-938. ISSN 0020-8833. eISSN 1468-2478. Available under: doi: 10.1093/isq/sqaa061
BibTex
@article{Spilker2020Tradi-56470,
  year={2020},
  doi={10.1093/isq/sqaa061},
  title={Trading Arguments: Opinion Updating in the Context of International Trade Agreements},
  number={4},
  volume={64},
  issn={0020-8833},
  journal={International Studies Quarterly},
  pages={929--938},
  author={Spilker, Gabriele and Nguyen, Quynh and Bernauer, Thomas}
}
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