Effects of Value Predispositions, Mass Media Use, and Knowledge on Public Attitudes Toward Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Posted: 5 Aug 2009
Research on public attitudes toward controversial science seem to be divided between a camp that relies on a ‘scientific literacy model’, which states that increase in public knowledge of science is related to increase in public support, and a camp contending that the ‘miserly’ public will rely on heuristic cues such as value predispositions to form opinions about scientific controversies. In the present study, we argue along the lines of the heuristic–systematic model of information processing that the influences of value predispositions and knowledge on attitude formation can be complementary processes that will supplement cues provided by the media. Using data from a national three-wave panel survey conducted between 2002 and 2005, we examine the influence of value predispositions, news media use, and scientific knowledge on attitudes toward a controversial scientific issue: human embryonic stem cell research in the USA. Public attitudes toward stem cell research were shaped by value predispositions and to a lesser extent, cues from the news media. Scientific knowledge played a minor role in influencing attitude toward stem cell research. Religiosity, ideology, and deference to scientific authority moderated the effect that scientific knowledge had on support for stem cell research, with knowledge having a weaker effect on attitudes for the conservatives, and those individuals high on religious beliefs and low on deference to scientific authority.
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