Normative and Informational Influences in Online Political Discussions


Vincent Price; e-mail:


How do the statements made by people in online political discussions affect other people's willingness to express their own opinions, or argue for them? And how does group interaction ultimately shape individual opinions? We examine carefully whether and how patterns of group discussion shape (a) individuals’ expressive behavior within those discussions and (b) changes in personal opinions. This research proposes that the argumentative “climate” of group opinion indeed affects postdiscussion opinions, and that a primary mechanism responsible for this effect is an intermediate influence on individual participants’ own expressions during the online discussions. We find support for these propositions in data from a series of 60 online group discussions, involving ordinary citizens, about the tax plans offered by rival U.S. presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000.