Effects of Value Predispositions, Mass Media Used, and Knowledge on Public Attitudes Towards Embryonic Stem Cell Research
The reading suggests that public attitudes toward stem cell research were shaped by value predispositions and news media to a lesser extent. Scientific knowledge played a minor role in influencing people’s attitude. Religiosity, ideology and deference to scientific authority are the keys to shape the pre-existing values of individuals. Findings from the panel survey will be included below.
Embryonic stem cell research is a highly controversial issue to highly religious individuals. For example, Christians believed that embryos are human beings created by God and are entitled to full moral protection (Ho et al. 2008) and thus, the destroying of embryo is as good as killing a person (NBAC 1999). Therefore, the religious predispositions of the people will classify the research as immoral and affect the support level.
Ideological predispositions will affect the support level of the people. For example, in recent studies, conservative members of the public have shown strong resistance and opposition to embryonic stem cell research (Weiss 2005; Slevin 2005). Hence, people with conservative ideology will not be supportive as they hold negative views toward the research.
Deference to Scientific Authority
The level of deference to scientific authority will determine the level of support by the people. People with high level of deference to scientific authority will see the needs for science to progress. Hence, they will be more supportive to the research.
News media has the potential to shape public opinion through framing of the research. An example is during the U.S. presidential Election in November 2004, Ron Reagan shows strong support towards stem cell research in order to find potential treatments for the diseases that caused his father’s death (Crampton 2004; Reinert 2004). The news media frame it in the way that strong support for the research is needed to find cure for the disease that even killed a formal president.
Knowledge is one of the key factors to engage recipient of a persuasive message (Ho et al. 2008). However, this does not mean that it will alter the pre-existing values of people even though they are engaged with scientific knowledge.
Findings from Panel Survey
Religiosity and ideology moderate the effects of scientific knowledge as knowledge has a weaker effect on individuals who are highly religious and conservative. Hence, the effect of scientific knowledge is overshadowed.
Deference to scientific authority moderates the effects of scientific knowledge as knowledge has a stronger effect on individuals who believe the needs for science to progress in public interest.
News media acts as a platform to enhance the current value predispositions.
The results can conclude that only the broad-minded and individuals who have low religious beliefs and a high deference to scientific authority will be the ones that used their scientific knowledge to form opinion on the research.
Public opinions are greatly shaped by value predispositions and news media. Knowledge plays a significant small role in influencing the judgement of an individual. In my opinion, most individuals will rely less on their knowledge but more on their pre-existing values with the support of news media to shape their attitude on a particular issue.
Ho, SS, Brossard, D and Scheufele, DA. 2008. Effects of value predispositions, mass media used, and knowledge on public attitudes towards embryonic stem cell research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 20: 171-192.