Exploring How Morality Framing and Partisanship Influence Public Perceptions of Immigration
The goal of this thesis research project is to provide a new theoretical outlook that explores and analyzes how morality framing may affect American political preferences and behavior. Partisanship and ideological preferences have long been acknowledged as significant predictors of political behavior in the American electorate. I posit the framing of the key issue of immigration through a moral prism can increase support for presidential proposals and may counteract or even overpower the effects of partisanship. When one’s views on morality and partisanship are at odds with each other on a given issue, I expect respondents who self-identify as morally driven will more likely embrace morality framing and may even cross party lines. To examine my assertions, I conduct a research survey experiment where 211 respondents react to speech excerpts from a president addressing the issue of immigration, with morality (versus security) framing as the key experimental treatment that triggers more morally-driven perceptions. To analyze the data, I explore key descriptive statistics from the survey sample, run a multivariate analysis of covariates (MANCOVA) in SPSS for main means and pairwise comparisons across domains (including manipulation checks), and run Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression models in STATA to explore the full dynamics of the multivariate casual relationships under study. My results confirm the main manipulation checks, demonstrate balanced random assignment across treatment groups, and indicate that the moral framing treatment has a positive and significant impact. Specifically, I find that respondents exposed to the moral framing treatment are significantly more likely to support a presidential immigration policy proposal while the factor of partisanship shows no significant effect. Within key domains, I also find that group empathy helps explain increases support for a morally framed immigration policy proposal (main treatment) while (conservative) ideology increases support for the security-framed treatment. Among my other findings, I also find that group empathy and (liberal) ideology help explain higher concern for immigrants, that group empathy increases support for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, and that age has a counteracting effect on these latter relationships. These results provide an avenue for future studies to further explore the potential effects that morality framing can have on public perceptions of policy proposals, including in different contexts and across other policy spheres.
Flores, Gerardo J, "Exploring How Morality Framing and Partisanship Influence Public Perceptions of Immigration" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30242462.