Shifting public opinion on LGBT rights


Kylie Kost/Iowa State Daily

Political scientists Melissa Michelson and Brian Harrison gave a lecture about “How to Change Attitudes toward LGBT Rights” Mar. 22.

Lesly Espinoza

Does your opinion change when you want it to align with someone you respect or admire?

Melissa Michelson and Brian Harrison are both professors and co-authors of their new book “Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes toward LGBT rights.”  

They conducted a lecture Wednesday night in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union that focused on research to prove the Theory of Dissonant Identity Priming (TDIP), which is featured in their new book.

“We believe people are updating their opinion to better align with preferences by people they respect and with whom they identify in some way,” Harrison said.

Their newly academic book was published this year on Feb. 20, and is already on its second printing according to Michelson.

Michelson is a professor at Menlo College and holds a doctoral degree in political science from Yale University. She researches persuasive communication on issues dealing with transgender bathroom access.

Harrison, who is a professor at Northwestern University, holds a master’s degree in communication from DePaul University and a doctoral degree in political science from Northwestern University. His research focuses on political communication, public opinion and political behavior.

“Our theory proves that interpersonal communications and identity priming can have a significant effort on public opinion,” Harrison said.

Their theory was proved with 14 random experiments that were conducted on college campus’ with controlled variables like race, religion and gender.

“If we can find the right identity to queue, you are more likely to double think about the issued and lead you to the thought of it,” Harrison said.

The professors want to help high school students, college students and advocacy organizations shift public opinion and bring awareness about LGBT rights.  

“This book is a resource for allies so that they are able to change the attitudes of others and increase the rights of the LGBT community,” Michelson said.

They are currently in a 12-week book tour visiting 36 cities and presenting this lecture in 38 high schools and college campus’. Iowa State is their largest volunteered audience to date according to Michelson.