The human being is a gregarious being by nature.. As such, it is subject to interaction with other people, who have their own points of view about the reality of the world around them. Therefore, the opinion of the community has always been a reference to guide one’s own conduct.
Currently, one of the ways to be aware of the opinions of communities is through the media, which allow information to be informed through elements such as opinion surveys of citizens’ beliefs and visions regarding specific topics. . These opinions cause various effects in those who receive them, including two opposite ones: Bandwagon effect and the Underdog effect.
Below we will see what they consist of, but first, let’s see what exactly an opinion survey consists of.
What is an opinion survey?
It is considered a public opinion survey that consultation carried out to people chosen according to statistical principles, being an essential tool for assessing public opinion.
The functions of this type of consultation are to produce knowledge, optimize decision-making based on the opinions of others, inform about the beliefs of our peers and have the possibility of using them in a propaganda way.
The results of the surveys will reflect different assessments depending on the topic they deal with; Among these opinions there may be one that enjoys clear popularity.
It is in this context that the Bandwagon effectaccording to which People tend to support those causes that we consider winning..
The Bandwagon effect is based on the need to be consistent with society as a whole, to be part of the group and to make a personal reaffirmation by supporting what we believe is most likely to be successful. In this way, the individual feels like a winning part, reinforcing their self-esteem and their feeling of belonging to a reinforcing group.
When does the Bandwagon effect appear?
Aside from its use as part of various persuasion techniques, studies indicate that this effect occurs when there is a very clear polarization in favor of one of the action or decision options.
It occurs especially in individuals with a high level of extraversion and neuroticism, in circumstances where information on the topic in question is limited and biased by the dominant opinion. Individuals who are undecided about which option to choose also They tend to vote for the option that is presented as the winner unless other variables come into play..
However, it must be taken into account that knowledge of the attitudes of the majority collected by mechanisms such as opinion polls can bias individual freedom, by causing a kind of learned helplessness and making the viewer believe that if their actions or thoughts are different from the majority will not have any impact. In reaction to this, In some people, boredom and disenchantment with the majority position may appear.in turn appearing a feeling of sympathy towards what we consider a losing cause.
The previously mentioned effect in which the opinion of the majority causes rejection and arouses sympathy for the minority is the Underdog effect. In this effect, the decision made will be the one that benefits the option that is perceived as least valued. Thus, the least valued option is considered unfairly attacked or belittled, which provokes its defense.
The causes of the Underdog effect can be multiple, such as an attempt to differentiate itself from the restsympathize with the situation of the “lost cause” or admire the other’s willingness to oppose the majority.
Its influence on social movements
Both the Bandwagon effect and the Underdog effect are guarantors of the emergence, maintenance and disappearance of social movements. It must be taken into account that the opinion of our peers is relevant when talking about changing attitudes.
While as a general rule, as studies show, majorities do not need a large amount of time or effort to direct the attitude of individuals, since subjects generally tend to try to reinforce their sense of belonging to society by Through conformity with social norms, minorities need a long period of time in which they need to maintain internal coherence and consistency in their demands in order to provoke a change in attitude in others.
First, some members of the majority group perceive that what is demanded is fair and change their perspective. Subsequently, This change causes others to follow their example and finally the previously minority opinion expands..
The case of feminist and anti-racist movements
An example of the phenomenon described were the feminist movements, those in defense of the rights of the African-American population and, more currently, the movements in favor of the rights of the LGBT community.
These groups, initially, had the frontal opposition of the majority of the population. However, the internal coherence, constancy and consistency over time of its demands made it some of the individuals who supported the dominant opinion changed their opinion (initially producing an Underdog effect). Over the years, the trend has reversed, with the once disfavored attitudinal trend becoming the majority and favoring the acceptance of collective rights through a Bandwagon effect.
However, although, as we have just seen, these effects can be applied in a positive way, knowing their existence can also cause them to be used in an interested way.
Partisan political use
Knowledge of the Bandwagon and Underdog effects has meant that in many cases attempts have been made to direct them with very specific purposes. One of the dimensions where the study of these effects is most attempted is in politics, from which An attempt has been made to use both the media and opinion polls in a propaganda manner. considering that knowledge of other people’s opinions will modify behavior and beliefs in the desired direction.
Politicians are aware that, many times, when favorable polls are published and disseminated, the spirit of their party members is strengthened, while the number of supporters increases.
For it, The different political options will try to present opinion polls that are as favorable as possible to their proposal. (given the greater ease for the population to subscribe to the majority opinion), presenting them in the media in order to expand the vision that their proposal is the one that is going to be the winner, or at least the one that is in boom.
This fact could help explain why, after the electoral results and regardless of what they are, all political forces say they consider themselves winners in the media. The aim is for subjects who are not totally compatible with their positions to change their attitudes in order to join. and feel part of the social majority.
As we have seen, throughout history the Underdog and Bandwagon effects have appeared and/or been applied influencing the masses. In the case of the manipulative use of these phenomenaare usually applied through opinion surveys with the purpose of taking advantage of their performative nature. (that is, their ability not only to describe a fact but also to create it, since since the surveys are disseminated they participate in the formation and change of attitudes), in order to direct public opinion towards a certain objective.
However, it must be taken into account that the fact that surveys can influence does not imply that they will do so in the intended direction. Presenting an event as a winner can bring others closer to it, but depending on the way it is presented, it is likely to produce rejection. What surveys change is the climate of the situation, giving a general impression of how the situation may work and whether we have any control over it.
Likewise, considering that we are currently in the information society and that through networks and new technologies we have access to a large number of visions and points of view, it is more difficult for these effects to be highly effective; especially taking into account that society is becoming more critical and selective with the information it is offered, being increasingly aware of the possibility of attempts to manipulate it.
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