Opinion pieces are often treated as performances of no real consuequence, as entertainments and political groundskeeping. But in a study at Yale University, researchers found that op-eds have "large and long-lasting effects on people's views both among the general public and policy experts."
Moreover, the study also found that "Democrats and Republicans altered their views in the direction of the op-ed piece in roughly equal measure."
"The time and energy it takes to produce an op-ed pieces raises a question: Are people persuaded by op-eds?" said Alexander Coppock, assistant professor of political science at Yale and the study's lead author. "We found that op-ed pieces have a lasting effect on people's views regardless of their political affiliation or their initial stance on an issue. People read an argument and were persuaded by it. It's that simple."
The researchers enrolled 3,567 people into the study through an online tool. In an initial survey, participants shared background information, such as their gender and party affiliation. They were randomly assigned into a control group or one of five "treatment" groups. Participants in the treatment groups were shown one of five op-eds that had been published in a major news outlet by a writer affiliated with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, or U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Participants in the control group were not given an op-ed to read.