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Using General Messages to Persuade on a Politicized Scientific Issue

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2022

Jon Green*
Northeastern University, Boston, USA Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, USA
James N. Druckman
Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
Matthew A. Baum
Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, USA
David Lazer
Northeastern University, Boston, USA
Katherine Ognyanova
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, USA
Matthew D. Simonson
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Jennifer Lin
Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
Mauricio Santillana
Northeastern University, Boston, USA Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
Roy H. Perlis
Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


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, we focus on whether generalized messages also can matter. We 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 (that is, homogeneous effects). Counter to common portrayals, the politicization of science does not preclude using broad messages that resonate with the entire population.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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