The perspective-taking exercise was conducted in an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 5,400 American adults. The survey was fielded in the two weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, in which policies related to immigrants and refugees were a major point of contention. In addition to the perspective-taking condition, the survey experiment included two other randomly assigned treatment conditions: an information-only group and a pure control group.
To test the ways in which politicians influence public opinion, the authors conduct two studies. The structures of the two studies are nearly identical. The authors partner with state legislators in a Midwestern state and identify contentious policy positions that they hold (support for tax increases or support for undocumented immigrants, for example). Next, they conduct interviews with a randomly selected sample of constituents to identify their opinions on these issues.