Recent Media Mentions

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1. WGN Radio Interview, May 15, 2017

Political scientists and authors Dr. Brian F. Harrison and Dr. Melissa R. Michelson join Justin to discuss their book, “Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights.” Dr. Harrison and Dr. Michelson talk about where the idea for the book comes from, the methods used to get people to change their minds about LGBT issues and why this issue has shown a pattern of improvement over the last 20 years.

2. Podcast with the New Books Network, May 4, 2017

Brian F. Harrison and Melissa R. Michelson‘s, Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights (Oxford University Press, 2017) is a broad interrogation of the way that public opinion is formed (or reformed) and activated, and specifically focuses on what transpired over the past fifteen years that shifted attitudes around the issue of LGBT rights. Grounded in multiple dimensions of Political Science, Political Psychology, Political Theory, Communications Studies, and LGBT Studies, Harrison and Michelson examine, through randomized experiments done in collaboration with a variety of LGBT advocacy groups, their theory of dissonant identity priming. This theory, as they note in their work, provides an understanding of the shift in acceptance of LGBT rights. The book explores the experiments that were done across the United States to test the hypothesis and determine the validity of the theory. Following the discussion of the theory itself, the grounding in political science, political psychology and political communications, and the experiment, the book also discusses how the information learned through the experiments may be put to use in politics. The book speaks to political science scholars and researchers while also addressing pracademics, activists, and advocacy groups. The authors also argue that Political Science, as a discipline, has come late to the understanding and incorporation of LGBT Studies as a legitimate dimension of the political science discipline, noting that rights of citizens denied or abrogated because of sexual orientation are still rights denied, and positioning their research within the mainstream of political science while integrating the study of rights of a group that has often been on the edges of political science scholarship.

3. “Transgender issue is the latest flashpoint in the rights fight in North Carolina.” Charlotte Observer, April 1, 2016. By Jim Morrill.

…”Brian Harrison, who teaches about LGBT politics at Northwestern University, says people have a hard time coming to grips with transgendered people.

“It’s a new and unnerving idea to a lot of people,” he says. “LGB people have become normalized over the last 15 to 20 years … I think people are uncomfortable with transgender people …

“There’s a visceral discomfort with transgender people. But there was a visceral discomfort with gay, lesbian and bi-people 15 years ago…”

4. “How to change minds about same-sex marriage” by Brian F. Harrison & Melissa R. Michelson. Washington Post, Monkey Cage/May 26, 2015

Responding to the retracted LaCour and Green study, Eitan Hersh noted in this space that the findings notably contradicted a significant body of research on get-out-the-vote canvassing. That research has consistently found that the most effective campaigners are like the target population: either from the same neighborhood, or sharing racial or ethnic identity. Hersh concludes that probably the best canvassers on behalf of same-sex marriage would not be LGBT canvassers but actually canvassers who share an identity with their targets. This is precisely what we found in 15 experiments over the past five years as part of a book manuscript under contract with Yale University Press, tentatively titled “Listen, We Need to Talk.”

5. “Meet the LGBT rights activists taking on the US south: ‘Why run from your turf?'” The Guardian / January 30, 2015 by Tim Pratt

“Dr. Brian Harrison has devoted the last six years to researching what he calls “shared identities.” A visiting fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, he is the co-author of the forthcoming, Listen, We Need to Talk: Facilitating Political Communication Through Strategic Identity Priming.” “Harrison’s research shows that campaigns successful in convincing people of the importance of LGBT rights “have to persuade [those] people they have something in common” with the group whose rights they reject. All people have multiple identities in the social world, the researcher says – the same person can be a father, employee and churchgoer, for example. “For centuries,” he continues, “LGBT people have been seen as outsiders. But these campaigns say, ‘I’m LGBT, but I also share identities with you. I’m southern, I’m a churchgoer.’ They focus on identities they have in common with others, rather than ones they don’t.” He thinks such efforts plant a seed, leading to gradual social and cultural change, which in turn creates change in the legal and political arenas.”

6. “Republicans Driving LGBT Progress?! The Atlantic Loses its Mind” Salon.com / March 28, 2014 by Brian F. Harrison, Ph.D.

“In a recent piece in the Atlantic, reporter Molly Ball largely credits Republicans for the progress in the fight for marriage equality. She points to recent events involving Republicans that prove that the GOP is actually a hospitable place for the LGBT community and the progress it seeks. I will not be the first, but let me be the latest, to reply: no, it is not.”

7. “Signs of Shift Among African Americans on Same-Sex Marriage” by Micah Cohen The New York Times / May 25, 2012

Research on President Obama’s announcement of support for same-sex marriage and its effect on support for marriage equality among African Americans.

“A study conducted last year by Melissa R. Michelson, a professor of political science at Menlo College in California, and Brian F. Harrison of Northwestern University, “It Does Matter if You’re Black or White: Race-of-Caller Effects on Black Support for Marriage Equality,” tested whether the race of the telephone interviewer made a difference in whether an African-American respondent would express support for same-sex marriage. As the study’s title suggests, it did.”

8. “Polls Show Obama’s Support for Gay Marriage Influencing Blacks” by Corey Dade National Public Radio / May 27, 2012

The impact of President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, citing similarities between our experimental findings and recent polling data.

“In this space earlier this month, I wrote about whether President Obama would face a backlash from African-Americans for his endorsement of same-sex marriage. (He hasn’t.) I made mention of a random field experiment in which 285 black people in Cook County, Ill., were polled about gay marriage. One group was read a quotation from Coretta Scott King, the late wife of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in support of marriage equality. The other group wasn’t. The theory was that King’s comments might influence people to express support for gay marriage. But her words had no such effect. The surprise was that race of the pollster who called made all the difference. Here’s how Melissa Michelson, the political science professor at Menlo College in California, explained it: ‘A black person calling a black person made the respondent more likely to support marriage equality. There’s something about being called by a member of your own ethno-racial community.’ Why would a small, obscure experiment conducted a year ago matter today? Because three new polls suggest Michelson’s research may have been spot on, as many African-Americans appear to be reconsidering their resistance to gay marriage.”

9. “A Daily Roundup of Academic Studies.” National Affairs / June 5, 2012

National Affairs included our latest experiment in a roundup of recent academic studies, along with other related articles on race and same-sex marriage.

10. In-class Election Teaches Candidates to Frame Issues for Voter InterestsThe Daily Northwestern/November 14, 2010

The campus newspaper at Northwestern covered an election simulation I designed and implemented for a Parties & Elections course. In the article, students describe how they integrated concepts from the course with an in-class election, including electing Presidential candidates and developing party platforms.