You've Been Framed – Moral vs. Pragmatic Arguments and Their Effects on Public Opinion

30 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2017

See all articles by Simon Heuberger

Simon Heuberger

American University, School of Public Affairs, Department of Government

Morris E. Levy

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Matthew Wright

American University; American University - School of Public Affairs

Date Written: September 3, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Heuberger, Simon and Levy, Morris E. and Wright, Matthew, You've Been Framed – Moral vs. Pragmatic Arguments and Their Effects on Public Opinion (September 3, 2016). American University School of Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2916466. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2916459 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2916459

Simon Heuberger (Contact Author)

American University, School of Public Affairs, Department of Government ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC
United States

Morris E. Levy

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Matthew Wright

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

American University - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Washington, DC 20016
United States

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