International Journal of Public Opinion Research vol:22 issue:2 pages:230-255
Whether, and to what degree, the publication of poll results might influence the opinions of the public is a much-debated subject. While many effect-studies of polls have looked at the voting context, this study is an empirical investigation into the effects of poll information on personal opinions and perceptions of collective opinion on five nonelectoral, though politically relevant issues (independence of the Flemish region in Belgium, retirement income, immigration policy, purchasing power, and health-care solidarity). An experimental study was conducted in which poll information was integrated into a survey of a randomly selected group of respondents in order to test the overall impact of poll results on opinions, as well as the differential effects depending on individual characteristics, such as opinion strength, political interest, and perceived poll influence. Furthermore, a two-wave panel design was used to investigate the duration and repeatability of the poll effects. It was successively found in both waves and consistently for all issues that exposure to poll information primarily affected the perceptions of collective opinion, while the personal opinions on political issues remained unaffected. This poll effect on the perceptions of collective opinion was observed not only shortly after being exposed to the poll information, but also three months later.