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How Predictive Appeals Affect Policy Opinions

Authors


  • I thank Kevin Arceneaux, Jason Barabas, Ray Block, Ted Brader, John Bullock, Dennis Chong, Kenneth Cosgrove, Jamie Druckman, Justin Esarey, Kim Gross, Neil Malhotra, Tom Nelson, Steve Nicholson, Zoe Oxley, Dave Redlawsk, and Tom Rudolph for helpful comments and suggestions. I also thank Jun Koga for research assistance and the National Science Foundation's TESS project and the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University for funding. Previous versions of this article were presented at annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, the American Political Science Association, and the International Society for Political Psychology.

Jennifer Jerit is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Florida State University, 531 Bellamy Building, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2230 (jjerit@fsu.edu).

Abstract

When political actors debate the merits of a public policy, they often focus on the consequences of a bill or legislative proposal, with supporters and opponents making stark but contradictory predictions about the future. Building upon the framing literature, I examine how rhetoric about a policy's consequences influences public opinion. I show that predictive appeals work largely by altering people's beliefs about the impact of a policy. Following in the tradition of recent framing research, this article also examines how opinions are influenced when people are exposed to opposing predictions. The analysis focuses on two strategies that are common in real-world debates—the direct rebuttal (in which an initial appeal is challenged by a statement making the opposite prediction) and the alternate frame (which counters an initial appeal by shifting the focus to some other consequence). There are important differences in the effectiveness of these two strategies—a finding that has implications for the study of competitive framing and the policymaking process more generally.

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