Does Violent Political Rhetoric Fuel Political Violence? Support for Political Violence in a National Survey Experiment
32 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2010 Last revised: 2 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
During the final stages of the health care debate in early 2010, amidst a spike in violent acts and threats against lawmakers by citizens, some pundits asked whether rhetoric by political leaders was fanning the flames of political violence. Building from theoretical foundations in media violence research, I field a nationally-representative survey experiment in which subjects are randomly assigned to read text from political ads using mundane violent metaphors or non-violent synonyms. I find that even mild violent language increases support for political violence among citizens with aggressive predispositions. Treatment effects are particularly strong for young adults. This work is part of a broader research agenda focusing on the role of aggression in public opinion, identifying new implications for this timeless human predisposition.
Keywords: aggression, political violence, framing effects
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