Framing and Women's Support for Government Spending on Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Programs


  • The authors would like to thank Grace Deason, Stanley Feldman, and Mirya Holman for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Data were collected by Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, NSF Grant 0818839, Arthur Lupia and Diana Mutz, Principal Investigators.


In this study, we use an experiment to evaluate how the framing of breast cancer threat shapes women's preferences for government spending on breast cancer research and treatment programs. The results indicate that framing breast cancer in terms of mortality elicits feelings of anxiety, which in turn heightens support for government spending on behalf of women. Despite the salience of breast cancer as a women's health issue, this relationship does not hold for the full sample of women. Instead, we observe a great deal of heterogeneity in reactions to the issue frames based on two individual-level factors: (1) women's perceptions of their own personal risk for developing the disease and (2) the extent to which women have a general tendency to experience and express anxiety—what psychologists refer to as their level of trait anxiety. These two lines of inquiry—personality traits as moderators of framing effects and emotion as a consequence of framing—have previously been investigated somewhat independently. In this article, we integrate the two In order to gain insight into the complexity of the psychological processes that underlie public opinion toward women's health. The results highlight the need for political rhetoric to underscore personal risk in order to mobilize support for spending on breast cancer research and treatment among women.