Social Norms and Variations in Political Engagement
2013–14 Survey Lab Project
Research in social psychology has demonstrated the powerful ability of social norms to shape both individual attitudes and behaviors, yet little work has translated these findings into the study of political outcomes. This project examines the process through which widely shared normative beliefs may encourage political activity. In particular, the project explores how variations in social norm ascription may drive differences in political participation across racial and ethnic groups. Through the lab, I collect observational data about norm ascription in the United States and administer a series of survey experiments to test the power of these norms for motivating political engagement. Building off theories of descriptive, injunctive, and personal norms for social psychology, I demonstrate that social information and norm priming shapes individual attitudes towards the importance of political activity, likelihood to over-report voting history, and willingness to become politically active by signing a petition. Furthermore, norm ascription is moderated by race and ethnicity. In whole, this project contributes to our understanding of what motivates individuals to become politically active and most importantly, speaks to how mobilizing efforts might better reach traditionally disenfranchised populations.