Morally Reframed Arguments Can Affect Support for Political Candidates

38 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2016

Date Written: October 20, 2016


Moral reframing involves crafting persuasive arguments that appeal to the values of the target, but argue in favor or against something that target would typically oppose (Feinberg & Willer, 2015). Past research has shown moral reframing to be an effective strategy for persuading liberals to be more supportive of conservative positions, and conservatives to be more supportive of liberal positions. Extending this work, the current paper investigated the effectiveness of moral reframing in influencing attitudes about candidates running for political office. We argued that messages criticizing a conservative candidate crafted in a way that appeals to the moral values of conservatives can decrease conservative support for that person, while messages criticizing a liberal candidate crafted to appeal to the values of liberals can decrease liberal support for that person. We tested these claims in the context of the 2016 American presidential election. In Study 1 (n = 397), conservatives who read a message opposing Donald Trump grounded in the more conservative value of loyalty supported him less than conservatives reading a message grounded in fairness concerns. In Study 2 (n = 392), liberals presented with a message opposing Hillary Clinton appealing to the more liberal value of fairness were less supportive of Clinton than liberals in a loyalty-argument condition. These results extend the applicability of moral reframing to political candidates and highlight how it can be a useful tool for overcoming rigid stances partisans often hold regarding political candidates, and may provide a means for opinion change and political acceptance.

Keywords: Moral Psychology, Political Psychology, Influence

Suggested Citation

Völkel, Jan Gerrit and Feinberg, Matthew, Morally Reframed Arguments Can Affect Support for Political Candidates (October 20, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Jan Gerrit Völkel (Contact Author)

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC 5000 LE

Matthew Feinberg

University of Toronto ( email )

United States

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