Johannes Kottonau and Claudia Pahl-Wostl (2004)
Simulating political attitudes and voting behavior
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
vol. 7, no. 4
To cite articles published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 18-Dec-2003 Accepted: 09-Jun-2004 Published: 31-Oct-2004
Understanding the dynamics of attitude formation is a key issue in social psychology. The paper presents a computational model for simulating the formation and change of attitudes and the influence of the strength of attitudes on behavior. The main conceptual challenge was to capture not only the traditional attitude concept but the full concept of attitude strength. This required combining different theoretical approaches within an integrated modeling framework. The dynamics of political attitudes of German citizens were chosen as specific application area because of the considerable amount of empirical data available. The model was tested by simulating the effects of different voting campaign strategies on the outcome of an election. Uncertainties in model parameters were accounted for by using Monte Carlo simulations. The implications of specific theoretical assumptions were investigated by performing model simulations for different model structures.
The paper shows the potential of social simulation when it comes to bringing together different theoretical approaches. The integration within a model exposes gaps and inconsistencies and allows formulating hypotheses for further empirical investigations.
The model has a modular structure and provides a rich repository for other modelers who are working in the field of attitude simulation.
|Figure 1. Overview of the social level. The center of the graph depicts a citizen network representing five citizens c1 to c5. In each time step, the citizens perceive a fraction of persuasive messages from the "campaign arena" depending on their habitual interest in the elections (the light ring denotes "perceived" messages, whereas the dark ring denotes "lost" resp. not perceived messages). In each time step, the strategists SA and SB and the mass media M post a specific number ni of persuasive messages on the campaign arena according to their temporal campaign strategy.|
The strategists and the mass media represent external sources of persuasive messages released in the form of TV news and spots, newspaper articles and ads, brochures, bumper stickers etc. These persuasive messages permanently affect the attitude formation and communication process of the citizens (see figure 1).
|Figure 2. Increasing degrees Ψ of accumulating half of the budgeted party advertising activities (light area) during one year before voting day. The other half of the budget (dark area) is spent for permanent party advertising activities (baseline campaigning)|
|Figure 3. At the moment of perceiving an Original Persuasive Message (OPM), its full content is translated into the Persuasive Message Extract (PME)|
|Figure 4. Overview of the temporal sequence of the various steps that are performed if a citizen has encountered new evidence. The numbers of the boxes correspond to the numbers of the steps used in the section headers in the text. The dashed lines denote the temporal evolution at the three levels of the Persuasive Message Extracts (PMEs), the citizen's attitude and the citizen. The arrows denote the inputs required for a particular step|
|Figure 5. The attitude unit is divided into two basic memory accounts. Every account is associated to steadily growing sets of PMEs (circles at the end of the spokes) that have been perceived during the ongoing campaign. The affective valences A or B and the credibility ci of PME i are indicated as two small circles within the circle indicating the PME|
|Figure 6. If citizens perceive persuasive messages with some minimal frequency, the total accessibility of all PMEs β c(tk) in the accounts is steadily growing. This overall measure for the recent frequency of campaign activities in the campaign arena is translated into the citizen involvement. Each citizen has an individual threshold of accessibility β att,c that determines the moment of getting significantly attentive to the campaign activities|
|Figure 7. Processes involved in the revision of the attitude Ac(tk) of citizen c at time tk after new evidence was encountered from the campaign arena. The two circles represent the two party accounts. The index i of each PME denotes its position within the temporal sequence of perception (high numbers for recent PMEs). The most recent PMEs are more accessible (bold lines), whereas older PMEs are less accessible (thin lines). Episodes that were perceived in situations of interpersonal communication (IPC) are most accessible. According to their accessibilities ai(tk) and credibilities ci(tk), the PMEs of each account are separately integrated into the response intensities RA,c(tk) and RB,c(tk). Finally, the response intensities are transformed into the attitude Ac(tk) and the party ambivalence Πc(tk).|
|Figure 8. Decreasing percentage Δ (tk) of uncertain citizens when asked which party they would vote for if voting day were today. Data (dots) from Erhardt (1998), extrapolation (line) by the author|
The state label "uncertain" is attached to the Δ(tk) percent out of all citizens with the lowest certainty at time step tk. Due to this categorization, an attitude of a particular citizen can flip between "certain" and "uncertain" several times during the simulated year depending on her/his position in certainty ranking.
|Figure 9. Citizen types distinguished in the model. The two dimensions are related to the Dalton (1984) typology of citizens.|
|Figure 10. Distribution of initial attitudes among 100 citizens in the simulation experiments. Reading example: 17% of the citizens have an initial attitude extremity between 0.00 and 0.25 and a pro party A valence. When asked for their party identification, 14 % of them report that they do not identify themselves with any party, whereas only 3% translate the relatively small extremity into the answer "tempered partisan"|
|Figure 11. Time plots of the various characteristics of attitude strength (and attitude strength itself). The figure is an example of how the model's output on the level of one particular citizen. The x-axis is divided into the 365 days before voting day. The y-axis shows the relative values of the different attitude components. On day 93, this citizen gets in contact with a strong supporter from the opponent party. The initial attitude of the receiver is almost immediately converted (one has to know that the ambivalence of this citizen is relatively high compared to the average citizen in the model). However, the impact of this conversion is not lasting very long. After some 100 days the citizen might think: "Three months ago, I felt completely convinced by my colleague, but now I feel quite sure again that I have always been right."|
|Figure 12. Overview of the volatility of the electorate encompassing 100 citizens (the temporal trace of the preference of each citizen is represented as a horizontal line) during the 365 days before voting day. The vertical position of every citizen depends on his/her initial attitude valence and extremity (between -1 for extreme support of party B, +1 for extreme support of party A, and near 0 for apartisans). Blue color means that, on a particular day, this citizen is supporting party A, red color means that this citizen is supporting party B. In this example model run, party A is advertising relatively early, while party B concentrates on strong accumulation with a big final burst. Window 1 shows the early advertising of party A yielding a considerable number of initial apartisans near the zero extremity line, while window 2 documents the final burst of party 2 regaining almost all of these citizens shortly before voting day.|
|Table 1: Structural and parametrical attributes of the experiments 1 to 4|
|speed of memory decay||RAS-A2 absent||RAS-A2 present|
|high||experiment 1; Ψopt,1||experiment 2; Ψopt,2|
|low||experiment 3; Ψopt,3||experiment 4; Ψopt,4|
|Figure 13. Strategy ranking scores for the 6 × 6 strategy encounters in each of the four experiments. Generally, the higher the winning probability of party A under a specific strategy encounter of the opposite parties A and B, the higher is the relative ranking score for that strategy encounter (see text)|
|Figure 14. The optimal degree of accumulating campaign resources towards voting day under the condition of high memory decay and the presence of the second axiom from the Receive-Accept-Sample (RAS-A2) model (Zaller 1992)|
|Table 2: Possibilities of simplifying the model by omitting specific model components. The modeler has to decide if the loss of psychological detail is relevant to her/his project|
|Omitted Model component||Loss of psychological detail|
|simulation of suppressing or elevating the credibilities of new persuasive messages depending on their congeniality of the receiving citizen||Human attitude bolstering|
"The opposite is not very credible."
The dramatic nature of the moment of conversion
"Since today I see everything from a different angle."
|simulation of the temporal decay of persuasive messages||Recency effects typical for information integration under low involvement|
Antagonism between an initial attitude anchor and short-term conversion
"One week ago, I felt completely convinced by my colleague, but now I feel quite sure again that I have always been right."
|simulation of the ambivalence and involvement component of attitudes||Attitude-behaviour link|
"First, I feel very certain about my opinion and second, I am really curious in the outcomes of the election. So, for me it is obvious to participate in the election."
|simulation of the involvement component of attitudes||Attention to advertisements|
I am really not interested in the elections. Even if I notice something about the parties, it is instantaneously forgotten".
"I am really curious in the outcomes of the election. I will start a discussion with Paul this evening."
"I feel very sure about my opinion; it will be easy to convince Paul."
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