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Social Networks and Citizen Response to Legal Change

Christine H. Roch, John T. Scholz and Kathleen M. McGraw
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 44, No. 4 (Oct., 2000), pp. 777-791
DOI: 10.2307/2669281
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2669281
Page Count: 15
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Social Networks and Citizen Response to Legal Change
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Abstract

Our goal is to extend the research on the political importance of social networks by investigating the role of networks in shaping citizen responses to changes in the law. We emphasize the development of special-purpose social networks to cope with changing legal requirements and analyze these networks from a problem-solving perspective. The empirical focus of the work is taxpayers' adaptation to the 1986 Tax Reform Act. The results from a panel survey of 475 taxpayers demonstrate that specialized, weak-tie networks play a critical role in shaping responses to legal change. More important problems (i.e., tax increases) stimulate search among broader networks. Broader networks, in turn, lead to greater knowledge about the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Network search is biased by both taxpayer attitudes and motivation: taxpayers seek like-minded discussants, and bigger tax increases lead to more noncompliant weak-tie discussants. Finally, the attitudes of weak-tie discussants produce changes in taxpayers' attitudes about compliance, confirming the important role of networks in shaping compliance behavior.

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