Gun Policy, Opinion, Tragedy, and Blame Attribution: The Conditional Influence of Issue of Frames
Haider-Markel, Donald P.
Joslyn, Mark R.
Cambridge University Press
Scholarly/refereed, publisher version
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Political events and policy discussion set parameters for debate and help to determine how an issue comes to be defined. Though existing research has examined the effects of alternative representations of political issues on public opinion, less attention has been given to highly salient issues, such as gun policy, and the potential effect of framing on causal attributions of blame for tragic events. This study expands the framing research to include opinion on policies concerning guns as well as the attributions of blame following the school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. We test several hypotheses using data from two field polls—one examining support for concealed handgun laws and the other examining blame attribution following the shootings at Columbine High School. We find that alternative gun frames influence opinion about concealed handgun laws as well as attributions of blame for Columbine. However, the effect is conditional, hinging on the nature of respondents’ predisposition and existing knowledge. We consider these findings within the context of the policy-making process. “The aftermath of that shooting . . . has had an even more profound impact on the country than all the school shootings last year did. And you can see it by what is happening in the Congress now.” —President Clinton referring to the impact of the Littleton, Colorado, school shootings on the gun policy debate (Sobieraj 1999) “I have to tell you, it’s amazing to us, there’s a whole lot of us going “Wow” . . . After all these school shootings we thought maybe we could get a discussion going, introduce some ideas, but this is tremendous.” —Janet Parshall of the Family Research Council after the House passed three religious amendments meant to reduce school violence following the Littleton shootings (Rosin 1999)
This is the publisher's version, which is also available electronically from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0022-3816.00077.
Haider-Markel, Donald P, and Mark R. Joslyn. 2001. “Gun Policy, Opinion, Tragedy, and Blame Attribution: The Conditional Influence of Issue Frames.” Journal of Politics 63(2):520-543.
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