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Keywords:

  • values;
  • communication;
  • extremism

Social values are an important foundation of political attitudes, yet political controversies often embody conflicts between values, placing the citizen in an awkward position of having to prioritize competing values. One strategy is to consider the groups that are symbolically associated with the competing values. Groups held in high esteem will enhance associated values; groups held in disregard will diminish associated values. Persuasive communicators exploit this process by assailing groups that have been publicly associated with certain issue positions or values as “extreme” or “radical.” Even if the group represents a consensus value like equal opportunity, the extremist label suggests the group's agenda embodies an excessive and uncompromising imposition of this value. This article reports on four experiments that investigated how the extremist label can undermine support for a group's position. We further examine how reputation affects judgments of value priorities.