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Gun ownership is a highly consequential political behavior. It often signifies a belief about the inadequacy of state-provided security and leads to membership in a powerful political constituency. As a result, it is important to understand why people buy guns and how shifting purchasing patterns affect the composition of the broader gun-owning community. We address these topics by exploring the dynamics of the gun-buying spike that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was one of the largest in American history. We find that feelings of diffuse threat prompted many individuals to buy guns. Moreover, we show that new gun owners, even more than buyers who already owned guns, exhibit strong conspiracy and anti-system beliefs. These findings have substantial consequences for the subsequent population of gun owners and provide insight into how social disruptions can alter the nature of political groups.
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.
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