News Release

Opposition to a politician creates stronger opinions

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Any opinion can be formed in two ways. You can support someone because you like them or because you don't like their opponent. A new study published in the latest issue of Political Psychology examines this concept to find that people are less likely to change their preference when they cast their vote against the candidate they do not like rather than for the one they do. Previous research has shown that negative information is often more powerful than positive information in creating attitudes, i.e. which political candidate to vote for. And the study's authors George Y. Bizer and Richard E. Petty find that leading people to think in terms of whom they oppose was enough to make them more resistant to a persuasive message

In the first of three studies, participants read two newspaper articles; one about a conservative candidate and the other about a liberal candidate. They then indicated whether they supported or opposed one of the candidates. Each participant was then asked to read an additional article that argued against his or her preferred candidate. "Individuals who think of their electoral preferences in terms of opposition to one candidate versus support for the favored candidate are less likely to change their attitudes toward the favored candidate should the attitude be attacked," the authors state. Those who reported "opposition" to a candidate showed less attitude change than those who stated "support."


This study is published in the August of Political Psychology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact

Political Psychology, the journal of the International Society of Political Psychology, is dedicated to the analysis of the interrelationships between psychological and political processes.

George Y. Bizer is an assistant professor of Psychology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Most recently, he was an assistant professor of Psychology at Eastern Illinois University. He has been published in numerous journals and books.

Dr. Bizer is available for questions and interviews.

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