Salience-driven political polarization

Last registered on March 04, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Salience-driven political polarization
Initial registration date
March 04, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
March 04, 2021, 10:04 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Bochum

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We test whether portraying a social issue as more or less controversial provides more or less focus on the corresponding issue relative to an issue that is fundamentally portrayed as noncontroversial. To this end, we set up a model describing how political choice may be affected by focusing and provide an experiment that aims to provide evidence for the main prediction of the model.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Khalmetski, Kiryl, Markus Dertwinkel-Kalt and Christoph Feldhaus. 2021. "Salience-driven political polarization." AEA RCT Registry. March 04.
Experimental Details


Rendering social issues as more or less controversial by letting participants decide between organizations that have the same attitude toward the topic or between organizations that have opposite attitudes toward the topic.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Amount of money given to an organizsation supporting the non-controversial topic (i. e., support for the elderly)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Willingness to pay that one's decision and not the decision of a randomly chosen other participant is implemented.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We distribute a survey with a market research company. The survey consists of three parts and one randomly chosen decision of 10 % of the participants is payoff relevant.

Part 1: In Part 1, participants take 3 decisions where they can distribute 30 Euros between two different social issues represented by two different organizations. They can only give positive amounts of money to one of the two organizations per topic. In each of the 3 decisions, that are shown in a random order, one of the topics is "Support for the elderly" and both corresponding organizations are in favor of supporting the elderly. In addition, with respect to the second social issue, participants are confronted with 2 out of 4 randomly chosen organizations, two of which are in favor of the respective topic and two of which are engaged against the respective topic.

The potentially controversial topics are:
Equality for homosexual people
Female quotas
Left and right/conservative politics

Part 2: In Part 2, participants decide separately for each of their decisions in Part 1 how much of 2 Euros, that they receive in case they and the respective decision are randomly chosen, they are willing to pay to make sure that their decision rather than the decision of a randomly chosen other participant determines the outcomes. We use the BDM mechanism.

Part 3: In Part 3, participants decide which of only two organizations shall receive 30 Euros. Specifically, they decide for each of the potentially controversial topics whether an organization that is in favor of or against the respective topic should receive the money. The two organizations they are confronted with are randomly chosen making sure that one organization is in favour and one is against the respective topic.
Experimental Design Details
Our main hypothesis concerns Part 1. We expect, in line with the prediction from our model, that less money is given to the non-controversial topic "support for the elderly" in case the other topic is rendered controversial, i.e. the participant is shown organizations both in favor of and against the other topic.

In addition, we collect people's willingness to pay that their own decision is implemented in Part 2. This is an exploratory endevour to test whether people are particularly willing or not to decide on controversial issues.
Randomization Method
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
600 observations
Sample size: planned number of observations
600 observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Half the participants are confronted with the controversial representation and half the participants are confronted with the non-controversial representation. In the latter case, only those whose own attitude is in line with the non-controversial respresentation serve as our "relevant" sample that is compared to the participants in the controversial case.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials