Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Experimental Psychology

Committee Chair

Tonya Buchanan

Second Committee Member

Joshua Buchanan

Third Committee Member

Michael Harrod

Abstract

There is disagreement as to whether and to what extent the American public is becoming more polarized, but certain issues such as climate change have been found to be polarizing. However, ideologically congruent moral message framing has been shown to moderate attitudes towards climate change and may provide a method to reduce polarization and moderate extreme attitudes. The current study attempted to broaden previous findings to investigate whether moral message framing could result in not only shifting relevant attitudes, but political ideology as a whole. Operating under Moral Foundations Theory (Haidt & Graham, 2007) two proenvironmental messages were constructed using ideologically congruent moral language (i.e., individualizing, binding). Participants reported their political ideology, after which they were randomly assigned to read one of the two messages. Following the message, they once again reported their ideology as well as their proenvironmental attitudes. We predicted an initial ideology x message frame interaction such that (1) the binding message would have a greater impact in moderating ideology as people reported higher levels of conservatism, while the individualizing message would have no impact across the political spectrum and (2) as people report higher levels of conservatism, they would report more proenvironmental attitudes in the binding message condition and fewer proenvironmental attitudes in the individualizing condition, while there would be little difference in attitudes across message conditions as people reported lower levels of conservatism. The results from a series of hierarchical regressions failed to support these hypotheses as there was no effect of message condition, finding only that participants reported stronger proenvironmental attitudes as they reported being more liberal. However, an exploratory hierarchical regression found higher levels of initial economic conservatism predicted greater shifts in economic ideology towards moderation. The results suggest that a single issue or a single message frame without the inclusion of additional stimuli may be insufficient to change ideology, as well as a potential unrecognized relationship between economic ideology and environmental attitudes.

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