Expressive Responses to News Stories About Extremist Groups: A Framing Experiment


Michael P. Boyle; e-mail:


With the tension between national security and civil liberties as a backdrop, this study examines responses to news coverage of activist groups. This 2 × 2 experiment presented participants with news stories about government efforts to restrict the civil liberties of an “extremist” individual or group (news frame) advocating for a cause supported or opposed by the respondent (cause predisposition). Willingness to take expressive action was greatest for individual-framed stories about a cause opposed by the respondent and for group-framed stories about a cause supported by the respondent. We contend that when reporters frame stories about extremist groups around individuals, fewer people will speak out in favor of causes they agree with and more will rally against causes they oppose.