New Wine in Old Bottles: An Experimental Study of How Voters Respond When New Issues are Given a Religious Frame
34 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 12 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
This paper uses experiments to test voters’ reactions when liberal issue positions on the environment (global warming) and capital punishment are framed in religious language. We ran two experiments. In the first experiment, voters evaluated a single (hypothetical) candidate, and we manipulated whether that candidate used a religious or secular rationale for a liberal policy position. In the second experiment, voters chose between two (hypothetical) candidates — one Republican, one Democrat — and we manipulated both the candidates’ positions as well as whether they used a religious or secular frame for the issues. We find in the single-candidate experiments that low religiosity voters are repelled by God-talk on the environment by Republicans and Democrats, with no effect for high religiosity voters. Neither high nor low religiosity voters react to a religious frame for the death penalty. However, in a two-candidate experiment, God-talk on the environment by candidates of either party increases support among high religiosity voters. But Democratic candidates also suffer a decline of support among low religiosity voters under these circumstances. On the death penalty, God-talk by a Democrat leads to less support among low religiosity voters and no gain among high religiosity voters; there is no effect for Republican candidates.
Keywords: framing, religion and politics
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