Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Critical Events and Attitude Change: Support for Gun Control After Mass Shootings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2018

Abstract

When and to what extent do crises and significant events induce changes in political attitudes? Theories of public opinion and policymaking predict that major events restructure public opinion and pry open new political opportunities. We examine the effect of major events on support for public policies in the context of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December 2012 using a nationally representative panel survey of US adults. Across both cross-sectional and within-subject analyses, we find no evidence that Americans granted greater support for gun control after the Sandy Hook shooting. Our null findings persist across a range of political and demographic groups. We also find no evidence of attitude polarization as a result of Sandy Hook. Our results suggest that elite polarization in a particular issue area leads citizens to employ motivated reasoning when interpreting critical events, thereby reducing the capacity for attitude change. Our findings have important implications for identifying the conditions under which major events affect support for public policies and create political opportunities for policy change.


Type
Research Notes
Copyright
© The European Political Science Association 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

Footnotes

*

Jon C. Rogowski is the Assistant Professor in the Department of Government, Harvard University, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02143 (rogowski@fas.harvard.edu). Patrick D. Tucker is the Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Center for the Study of American Politics, Yale University, ISPS C226, 77 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 (patrick.tucker@yale.edu). We thank Steve Smith, Betsy Sinclair, and the Weidenbaum Center for the Economy, Government, and Public Policy for providing the data used in this project. Dan Butler, Andrew Reeves, Betül Demirkaya, the Editor, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2018.21


References

Barry, Colleen L., McGinty, Emma E., Vernick, Jon S., and Webster, Daniel W.. 2013. ‘After Newtown – Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness’. New England Journal of Medicine 368:10771081.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brewer, Paul R. 2003. ‘Values, Political Knowledge, and Public Opinion About Gay Rights’. Public Opinion Quarterly 67:173201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carmines, Edward G., and Stimson, James A.. 1989. Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Chong, Dennis, and Druckman, James N.. 2007. ‘Framing Theory’. Annual Review of Political Science 10:103126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Christenson, Dino P., and Glick, David M.. 2015. ‘Issue-Specific Opinion Change: The Supreme Court and Health Care Reform’. Public Opinion Quarterly 79:881905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Converse, Philip E. 1964. ‘The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics’. In E. Apter David (ed), Ideology and Discontent, 206261. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Davis, Darren W., and Silver, Brian D.. 2004. ‘Civil Liberties vs. Security: Public Opinion in the Context of the Terrorist Attacks on America’. American Journal of Political Science 48:2846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Druckman, James N., Peterson, Erik, and Slothuus, Rune. 2013. ‘How Elite Partisan Polarization Affects Public Opinion Formation’. American Political Science Review 107:5779.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erikson, Robert S., Michael, B. MacKuen, and Stimson, James A.. 2002. The Macro Polity. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Feldman, Stanley, and Conover, Pamela Johnston. 1983. ‘Candidates, Issues and Voters: The Role of Inference in Political Perception’. Journal of Politics 45:810839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haider-Markel, Donald P., and Joslyn, Mark R.. 2001. ‘Gun Policy, Opinion, Tragedy, and Blame Attribution: The Conditional Influence of Issue Frames’. Journal of Politics 63:520543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kingdon, John W. 1995. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies 2nd ed. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
Krosnick, Jon A., Holbrook, Allyson L., Lowe, Laura, and Visser, Penny S.. 2006. ‘The Origins and Consequences of Democratic Citizens’ Policy Agendas: A Study of Popular Concern about Global Warming’. Climatic Change 77:743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mueller, John. 1973. War, Presidents and Public Opinion. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Page, Benjamin I., and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rogowski, Jon C. 2018. ‘Voter Decision Making with Polarized Choices’. British Journal of Political Science 48(1):122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zaller, John R. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Rogowski and Tucker Dataset

Link

Rogowski and Tucker supplementary material

Appendix

[Opens in a new window]
PDF 319 KB

Altmetric attention score


Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 128
Total number of PDF views: 502 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 23rd May 2018 - 2nd December 2020. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-79f79cbf67-jgbff Total loading time: 0.257 Render date: 2020-12-02T14:03:27.420Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Wed Dec 02 2020 13:05:37 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": true, "relatedCommentaries": true, "subject": true, "clr": false, "languageSwitch": true }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Critical Events and Attitude Change: Support for Gun Control After Mass Shootings
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Critical Events and Attitude Change: Support for Gun Control After Mass Shootings
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Critical Events and Attitude Change: Support for Gun Control After Mass Shootings
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *