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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 27 [Table 3 here] These results suggest that the initial prompt, rather than follow-up question, was mainly responsible for the overall pattern of contingent effects. Whereas all four of the significant interactions described above remain significant when only the first half of the transcripts were tested, several of the F-statistics fall below the significance threshold when only the latter half of the conversations were examined. This finding squares with our impressions, gleaned from qualitative study of the transcripts, that many groups – particularly conservative groups – spontaneously coupled a discussion of homosexual marriage with arguments about “special rights,” and that supporters of legalizing gay partnerships tended to argue for them based on “equal rights” no matter what the frame. Limits on framing effects. Many individual-level framing experiments have found that similar manipulations (either in survey questions or in mock news articles) produce substantial shifts in expressed opinions. Our results here, which focus on what Gamson (1992, p. 180) calls “effects in use,” suggest much more moderate influences – filtered as they are through active discussion and group negotiation. Some researchers (Brewer, 2002; Druckman & Nelson, 2002) have recently drawn attention to the possibility that exposure to competing frames, interpersonal conversation, or both, can substantially weaken framing effects. Our data offers convincing evidence supportive of this line of theorizing. Worthy of note is that fact that our framing manipulation, while it did clearly affect the content and tone of the group discussions, did not produce any significant opinion change (based

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
27
[Table 3 here]
These results suggest that the initial prompt, rather than follow-up question, was mainly
responsible for the overall pattern of contingent effects. Whereas all four of the significant
interactions described above remain significant when only the first half of the transcripts were
tested, several of the F-statistics fall below the significance threshold when only the latter half of
the conversations were examined. This finding squares with our impressions, gleaned from
qualitative study of the transcripts, that many groups – particularly conservative groups –
spontaneously coupled a discussion of homosexual marriage with arguments about “special
rights,” and that supporters of legalizing gay partnerships tended to argue for them based on
“equal rights” no matter what the frame.
Limits on framing effects. Many individual-level framing experiments have found that
similar manipulations (either in survey questions or in mock news articles) produce substantial
shifts in expressed opinions. Our results here, which focus on what Gamson (1992, p. 180) calls
“effects in use,” suggest much more moderate influences – filtered as they are through active
discussion and group negotiation. Some researchers (Brewer, 2002; Druckman & Nelson, 2002)
have recently drawn attention to the possibility that exposure to competing frames, interpersonal
conversation, or both, can substantially weaken framing effects. Our data offers convincing
evidence supportive of this line of theorizing.
Worthy of note is that fact that our framing manipulation, while it did clearly affect the
content and tone of the group discussions, did not produce any significant opinion change (based


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