Political elites regularly try to frame issues in terms that will gain them the most public support, invoking values that have popular appeal. One of these values, religiosity, has a long history in American politics. But considering the abundance of religious framing in political speeches and writings, very little has been done to study its persuasive effects. This dissertation explores how religious framing has been used, who is persuaded by it (and who resists it), and how it affects cognitive processing.
I hypothesize that the effectiveness of religious framing is moderated by the religious affiliation and commitment of the framing recipient. I also hypothesize that religious framing encourages peripheral rather than central cognitive processing. To test these and other hypotheses, I conduct a survey experiment in which participants are exposed to different value frames both in support and opposition to a public policy issue.
I find that religious framing has little to no effect on changing attitudes among most religiously affiliated individuals. However, religious framing is effective at turning off the religiously unaffiliated, causing them to reject arguments made by the individual offering the frame. Further, I find that religious framing both organizes and simplifies the decision-making process, leading recipients to think about issues in religious terms (i.e., to place more importance on religion when thinking about the issue) and encouraging peripheral rather than central information processing.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2009. Major Political science. Advisor: John L. Sullivan. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 175 pages, appendices A-I.
Peterson, Jonathan Robert.
For the Bible tells us so: the persuasive effects of religious framing on policy attitudes and cognitive processing..
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