COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 6 (UPI) — The quickest way for politicians to defeat a generally liked policy is by associating it with a group seen as “radical” or “extreme,” U.S. researchers suggest.
Thomas Nelson, co-author of the study and associate professor of political science at the Ohio State University in Columbus, says the tactic can be used without the need to attack “a popular value that you know most people support.”
“You just have to say that, in this particular case, the supporters are going too far or are too extreme,” Nelson said in a statement. “By associating a policy with unpopular groups, opponents are able to get people to lose some respect for the value it represents, like feminism or environmentalism.”
Nelson, Joseph Lyons and Gregory Gwiasda, both former graduate students at Ohio State, had more than 230 undergraduate students read and comment on an essay on a blog concerning the 2003 Augusta National Golf Club’s “men only” membership policy.
One group read that the proposal to move the tournament was led simply by people and citizens, another group read that the proposal was led by feminists and the third group read that the proposal was led by radical feminists, militant feminists and extremists.
“All three groups in the study read the exact same policy proposals,” Nelson said. “But those who read that the policy was supported by ‘radical feminists’ were significantly less likely to support it than those who read it was supported by ‘feminists’ or just ‘citizens.'”
The findings were published journal Political Psychology.