Playing the game: when group success is more important than downgrading deviants

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Abstract

Partisan respondents evaluated a potential party leader (Study 1) or an ingroup political candidate (Study 2) who expressed normative or deviant opinions against a backdrop of public opinion that was either supportive of, or hostile toward, the ingroup's traditional beliefs (Study 1) or the normative ingroup position on a specific issue (Study 2). Across both studies, high identifiers gave stronger support to a normative candidate over a deviant candidate when public opinion was with the group, but not when public opinion was against the group. Under the latter conditions, high identifiers instead upgraded the deviant candidate. Additional analyses revealed this pattern of differential support for normative and deviant candidates among high identifiers appeared to be related to strategic considerations—specifically, the candidate's perceived chances of gaining public support and being elected. Among low identifiers, support for normative and deviant candidates was less affected by the broader context of public opinion, and was not related to such strategic considerations. These results demonstrate that responses to deviance depend on the broader context in which deviance occurs. Deviance can, at times, be a way through which groups achieve important goals. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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