Moral Concerns and Policy Attitudes: Investigating the Influence of Elite Rhetoric
Political Communication, Forthcoming
38 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 8, 2014
A growing body of research documents the crucial role played by moral concerns in the formation of attitudes and a wide range of political behaviors. Yet extant models of moral judgment portray a direct linkage between moral intuitions and policy attitudes, leaving little room for the influence of political context. In this article, we argue that political rhetoric plays an important role in facilitating the connection between moral intuitions and political attitudes. Using a unique combination of media content analysis of the stem cell debate and individual-level measures of the public’s moral foundations, we examine the role of rhetoric in linking a person’s moral foundations to their attitudes. Our results show that individuals who are the most likely to have been exposed to political rhetoric have the strongest connection between their moral foundations and their attitudes on the issue. We also find that rhetoric was persuasive on this moralized issue and present suggestive evidence that it was most persuasive among those who endorsed the relevant moral foundation.
Keywords: morality, political psychology, attitudes, elite rhetoric, persuasion, content analysis, moral foundations, stem cell
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