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Unpublished Paper
An Analysis of Source and Frame Interactions on Attitudes towards Stem Cell Research
  • Renan Levine, University of Toronto
  • Laura Stephenson, University of Western Ontario

Despite the apparent acceptance of funding embryonic stem cell research in Canada, the public debate continues. Religious groups have been particularly vocal, especially from the Catholic Church, in expressing their opposition to the research. As a consequence of this high-profile public debate, citizens who look to recognized authorities for guidance on the issue might receive conflicting advice from religious and political leaders. The content of the messages from these different sources can vary widely. Religious groups typically focus on ethical reasoning, while secular elites (including politicians) often highlight more material considerations. In such a situation, where reasonable and persuasive arguments are put forth by individuals with very different reasoning, which messages are more persuasive? In this paper, we compare how the identity and expertise of different messengers influences the effect of a frame on the formation and articulation of citizen preferences on this issue. In a between-subject analysis, we find that both the message and the messenger influence variation in what beliefs are important to the voter’s opinion about stem cell research. Furthermore, varying the frame and the source caused different beliefs to become more influential predictors of opinion towards funding stem cell research. When a message is delivered by a source with specific expertise in the logic underlying the frame, we find some evidence that the message has a greater influence, especially on the salience of certain beliefs for opinion formation. However, the beliefs activated were often contrary to the message, indicating that these beliefs strengthened in resistance to the message. Our findings indicate that messengers have a variety of effects on framing that need to be further researched.

  • Stem cell research,
  • framing,
  • source effects
Publication Date
August, 2008
Citation Information
Renan Levine and Laura Stephenson. "An Analysis of Source and Frame Interactions on Attitudes towards Stem Cell Research" (2008)
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