You've Been Framed – Moral vs. Pragmatic Arguments and Their Effects on Public Opinion
30 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2017
Date Written: September 3, 2016
This paper examines the effects of moral versus pragmatic arguments on how people think about political issues. It tests the idea that moral frames should shift the balance of opinion more strongly than pragmatic frames. It also analyses whether the distributions across frames appear more polarized in moralized frames than in pragmatic frames. We conduct an experiment that assesses the effects of moral and pragmatic frames and investigate the hypothesis that exposure to moral frames causes bigger shifts in issue positionings than pragmatic frames. Respondents completed an online survey where they were exposed to six frames on the issue of Eminent Domain, or Takings, and Minimum Wage in seven treatment groups. They were then asked to indicate their opinion on both issues on a Likert response scale. Standardized regression was used on all treatment groups to calculate the respective framing effects. The results are mixed. Supporting frames support the hypothesis of moral frame superiority, but opposing frames do not. The data also does not confirm moralization theory and increased moral rigidity. These results are to be treated with caution, though, as the null hypothesis of no treatment effect could not be rejected for most treatment groups.
Keywords: Public opinion, framing, moralization, pragmatics, eminent domain, minimum wage
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