Explaining Welfare Attitudes: General Moral Principles, Issue Framing and Survey Design

Funding: National Research, Development and Innovation Office, Grant K 120070
Duration: October 1, 2016 — March 31, 2019 (29 months)

The research aims to investigate certain determinants of attitudes toward public policy and various dilemmas of everyday life. Among others, the project investigates opinions on materialism and consumption, religious beliefs, household division of labor, same-sex marriage, family policies, asylum-policy and collective action dilemmas. Janky and his colleagues suppose that, beyond self-interest, certain moral considerations also shape those attitudes. According to them, public discourse and survey design shape public opinion by framing the moral dilemmas respondents face. Based on these assumptions, they are particularly interested in how public discourse modifies the effects of questionnaire frames and moral considerations on attitudes.

Part of the research methods consisted of carrying out survey-experiments in which the presentations of certain issues vary across randomly selected sub-groups of respondents. The project generated important findings. Some of them showed that identity considerations are often more important than general moral principles in shaping attitudes, and agenda setting and framing of questions could influence the relative importance of identity and moral considerations in opinion formation. For instance, question wording could impact on revealed attitudes toward asylum policy.  However, this effect itself depends on the respondents’ partisan preferences and the public discourse on the issue at the time of the survey. This and other similar results point to the complexity of the effect of issue-framing on social attitudes.

Principal investigator (PI):

Béla Janky
Senior Research Fellow 
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