Framing and Deliberation: How Citizens' Conversations Limit Elite Influence


  • We thank Katherine Brandt, Paul Brewer, Dennis Chong, Jeffrey Cohen, Mary Dietz, Nicole Druckman, James Farr, Chris Federico, Kimberly Gross, Robert Huckfeldt, Casey Klofstad, Jon Krosnick, James Kuklinski, Tali Mendelberg, Joanne Miller, Diana Mutz, Ryan Nagle, Michael Parkin, Gordon Silverstein, Verity Smith, Tracy Sulkin, Kathy Cramer Walsh, the anonymous reviewers, and seminar participants at UCLA, the University of Illinois, and the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences, Harvard University for helpful advice. We also acknowledge support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, and the Judge and Mrs. Cecil Larson Undergraduate Honors Thesis Grant.

James N. Druckman is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota, 1414 Social Sciences; 267 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55455-0410 ( Kjersten R. Nelson is a graduate student, Maxwell School of Syracuse University (


Public opinion research demonstrates that citizens' opinions depend on elite rhetoric and interpersonal conversations. Yet, we continue to have little idea about how these two forces interact with one another. In this article, we address this issue by experimentally examining how interpersonal conversations affect (prior) elite framing effects. We find that conversations that include only common perspectives have no effect on elite framing, but conversations that include conflicting perspectives eliminate elite framing effects. We also introduce a new individual level moderator of framing effects—called “need to evaluate”—and we show that framing effects, in general, tend to be short-lived phenomena. In the end, we clarify when elites can and cannot use framing to influence public opinion and how interpersonal conversations affect this process.