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Following recent insight into how citizens respond to attempts to correct political and salient misperceptions (Nyhan and Riefler, 2010, Political Behavior 32 (2): 303–330), we also expect that certain characteristics will predispose citizens to react strongly to messaging on highly contentious issues. Specifically, we expect that respondents will express an opinion that is even stronger in line with their predispositions when exposed to frames that challenge their position. Using an experiment on abortion opinion embedded in the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), we find little indication that Pro-Abortion Access and Anti-Abortion Access frames move opinion on abortion in the aggregate, but there is evidence that specific characteristics correlate with a “backfire” effect identified by Nyhan and Riefler (2010, Political Behavior 32 (2): 303–330). In particular, gender, religiosity, and “Born-Again” Christian affiliation are all predictive of responding to either the Anti-Abortion Access or Pro-Abortion Access frame by moving the opposite direction as intended on the feeling thermometer.
Is public support for social welfare programs’ contingent on an individual’s exposure to risk? Prior work has examined whether tough economic times lead people to “reach out” (i.e. become more accepting of government expansion of social welfare programs) or “pull back” (i.e. become less supportive of welfare). However, these studies do not account for the conditional relationship between an individual’s exposure to risk and his or her risk orientation. Using new survey data, we find that an individual’s risk orientation moderates the relationship between risk exposure and public support for welfare spending. When individuals perceive exposure to economic risk, those who are risk averse are highly supportive of welfare expansion; those who are risk acceptant become less supportive. Broadly, these findings suggest that public support for welfare spending is contingent on whether an individual perceives exposure to risk and, if so, the individual’s propensity to tolerate that risk.
Helicopter parenting is a phenomenon that is attracting sizable attention from university administrators and instructors. We examine the implications of helicopter parenting for both the political science classroom and for public opinion. Using a survey conducted at multiple universities in the United States, we find that helicopter parenting has a significant impact on the policy attitudes of college students. Specifically, students with helicopter parents are more likely to express support for both government surveillance and nanny state policies than are students without helicopter parents. Given the growing trend of helicopter parenting, these findings will likely have substantial implications for both the political science classroom and public opinion in the near future.
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