Negatively framed political attitudes (“I don’t like Romney”) are stronger than positively framed attitudes (“I like Romney”), and this effect is strengthened when people think more deeply about the issues involved.
That is the finding of a paper published October 25 in the British Journal of Social Psychology by Dr George Bizer (Union College, New York), Dr Iris Žeželj (University of Belgrade) and Jamie Luguri (Yale University).
The researchers presented participants with information about two fictional (though ostensibly real) candidates — one conservative, one liberal — for a position on a government board. After reading about the two candidates, some participants were asked if they ‘supported’ or ‘opposed’ the liberal candidate and some were asked if they ‘supported’ or ‘opposed’ the conservative. When the candidates were vying for a local government board, participants who were led to frame their opinions negatively — regardless of their underlying preference — expressed more certainty about their attitudes than did participants who were led frame their opinions positively. When the candidates were vying for a distant government board, the effect did not emerge.