Attitudes, Rhetoric, and Acceptance of Political Compromise

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Principal investigator:

Timothy Ryan

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill



Sample size: 1,352

Field period: 04/15/2013-06/20/2013


There were two primary hypotheses. First, moral conviction predicts opposition to political compromise above and beyond other measures of attitude intensity (an observational relationship). Second, moral conviction moderates responses to deontological and consequentialist frames on a political issue, with consequentialist frames increasing support for compromise among citizens with morally convicted attitudes, but having a smaller effect among citizens without morally convicted attitudes (a relationship studied via random assignment).

Experimental Manipulations

Subjects read a news clipping the discussed Social Security reform through either a consequentialist or deontological frame (available upon request).


There were three outcome variables. First, subjects evaluated the quality of the news article they read. Second, they reported their support for two hypothetical politicians, one of whom endorsed political compromise, one of whom took a more rigid stance. Third, subjects had the opportunity to receive a cash payment, on the condition that a disliked political group would also receive a benefit.

Summary of Results

The observational hypothesis concerning moral conviction was well supported. These results are reported in the "No Compromise" chapter of my dissertation (a chapter that, in article form, is currently under peer review). The moderation hypothesis concerning deontological and consequentialist frames was supported for one outcome variable (perceived quality of the news clipping), but not the other two. The results for perceived quality of the news clipping (as well as results from other data sources) are consistent with the idea that moral conviction and deontological processing are linked, but the null results for the other two measures point to important texture in how deontological processing manifests itself. I have continuing studies that are working to unravel the patterns, though some of the results are discussed in the chapter of my dissertation titled, "Unthinkable! How Citizens with Moralized Attitudes Process Political Arguments."

Additional Information

The key results from the TESS study were presented in two conference papers: "No Compromise: A Political Consequence of Moralized Attitudes" (APSA 2013) and "Unthinkable! How Citizens with Moralized Attitudes Process Political Arguments" (MPSA 2014). "No Compromise" has been under peer review since February of 2014. "Unthinkable" will undergo some additional revisions before it is submitted for peer review. I will send TESS my recently completed dissertation, which is the most up-to-date place to read this work, and which situates it in a broader research agenda. The dissertation is available at