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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.

Jon Green, Senior Research Scientist, Network Science Institute, Northeastern University

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Matthew Baum, Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications, Harvard Kennedy School

David Lazer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University

Katherine Ognyanova, Associate Professor of Communication, Rutgers University

Matthew Simonson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Penn Identity & Conflict Lab, University of Pennsylvania

Jennifer Lin, Department of Political Science and IPR, Northwestern University

Mauricio Santillana, Assistant Professor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Roy Perlis, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

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