Using General Messages to Persuade on a Politicized Scientific Issue (WP-21-45)
Jon Green, James Druckman, Matthew Baum, David Lazer, Katherine Ognyanova, Matthew Simonson, Jennifer Lin, Mauricio Santillana, and Roy Perlis
Politics and science have become increasingly intertwined. Salient scientific issues such as climate change, evolution, and stem cell research become politicized, pitting partisans against one another. This creates a challenge of how to effectively communicate on such issues. Recent work emphasizes the need for tailored messages to specific groups. Here, the researchers focus on whether generalized messages also can matter. They do so in the context of a highly polarized issue—extreme COVID-19 vaccine resistance. The results show that science-based, moral frame, and social norm messages move behavioral intentions, and do so by the same amount across the population (i.e., homogenous effects). Counter to common portrayals, the politicization of science does not preclude using broad messages that resonate with the entire population.
This paper is published in British Journal of Political Science.