Hearts or Minds? Persuasive Messages on Climate Change and the Global Aids Crisis
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
What kinds of appeals does the public find persuasive for global causes? Are arguments that appeal to so-called rational self-interest more persuasive than those that appeal to morality? The causal mechanisms by which transnational advocacy movements are able to generate political support for their campaigns are poorly specified in the literature in international relations and public opinion. This paper explores the relative persuasiveness of advocacy appeals for two global issues, climate change and the AIDS crisis in the developing world. Using an experimental design, this paper reports the results of an experiment in which subjects were randomly assigned to one of four conditions, a control condition with no message appeal, an economic self-interest appeal, a secular moral appeal, and a mixed appeal combining self interest and morality. Subjects were then asked a series of questions about their willingness to support advocacy efforts. We hypothesized that for issues like climate change for which the costs of action are higher and for which there is a more direct cost to individuals or the country, arguments based on economic self-interest are more likely to be persuasive than moral appeals. Where the direct risks or costs to individuals or the country are lower (like the global AIDS crisis), moral messages are more likely to have appeal.
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