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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 1 Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions Abstract Although the framing of public opinion has often been conceptualized as a collective and social process, experimental studies of framing have typically examined only individual, psychological responses to alternative message-frames. In this research, we employ for the first time group conversations as the unit of analysis (following Gamson, 1992) in an experimental study of framing effects. Two hundred and forty-one American citizens in 54 groups (18 homogeneously conservative groups, 17 homogeneously liberal, and 19 heterogeneous groups) discussed whether or not gay and lesbian partnerships should be legally recognized. Groups were randomly assigned to one of two framing conditions (a “homosexual marriage / special rights” frame or a “civil union / equal rights” frame). Results indicated framing effects that were, in all cases, contingent on the ideological leanings of the group. The “marriage” frame tended to polarize group discussions along ideological lines. Both liberal and conservative groups appeared to find their opponents’ frame more provocative, responding to them with a larger number of statements and expressing greater ambivalence than when reacting to more hospitable frames.

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
1
Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Abstract
Although the framing of public opinion has often been conceptualized as a collective and
social process, experimental studies of framing have typically examined only individual,
psychological responses to alternative message-frames. In this research, we employ for the first
time group conversations as the unit of analysis (following Gamson, 1992) in an experimental
study of framing effects. Two hundred and forty-one American citizens in 54 groups (18
homogeneously conservative groups, 17 homogeneously liberal, and 19 heterogeneous groups)
discussed whether or not gay and lesbian partnerships should be legally recognized. Groups were
randomly assigned to one of two framing conditions (a “homosexual marriage / special rights”
frame or a “civil union / equal rights” frame). Results indicated framing effects that were, in all
cases, contingent on the ideological leanings of the group. The “marriage” frame tended to
polarize group discussions along ideological lines. Both liberal and conservative groups
appeared to find their opponents’ frame more provocative, responding to them with a larger
number of statements and expressing greater ambivalence than when reacting to more hospitable
frames.


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