Issue Comparisons and Ordinal Priming

Bruce Bimber, Jennifer Brundidge, Meredith Conroy, Erica Lively


We consider a form of media effect involving comparisons between similar events or problems that differ in magnitude along some common dimension. We propose that such comparisons involve “ordinal priming” when they establish a single schema for evaluation and suggest a rank order among two or more cases, as in the statement that the current economic crisis is the worst since the Great Depression. We explore the direction of opinion shift in ordinal priming using an experiment involving four issues. Results show that, on two of the four issues, comparisons shift opinion about the target issue in the direction of assimilation toward more negative assessment. We find that this effect is contingent on the issue and is moderated by cognitive sophistication.

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