Which Frames Change Minds and Actions? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Australia

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Event details

IR Seminar Series

Date & time

Friday 12 October 2018


SDSC Reading Room, Room 3.27, Hedley Bull Building (130), ANU
ANU Canberra


Associate Professor Jana von Stein


Luke Glanville

Australia is currently the only country in the world that requires offshore processing and mandatory detention of asylum seekers who arrive without a visa. The UN and various human rights NGOs have criticised Operation Sovereign Borders and related policies furiously, and a recent investigation suggests that detention facility officers may be liable for crimes against humanity under the International Criminal Court. Nonetheless, the policy enjoys bipartisan backing, and is broadly supported by the Australian public.

The research to be presented is part of a co-authored project with Jill Sheppard (Lecturer, ANU School of Politics and International Relations). In it, we aim to understand how malleable citizens’ views on the asylum seeker policy are, and under what conditions people might be motivated to voice opposition and take action against it. More specifically, we conducted a survey experiment in which we randomly exposed respondents to alternative frames(also known as narratives): international legal, moral, reputational, and cost-benefit. Overall, the preliminary findings strongly suggest that certain framing can reduce approval of the policy, even when the Australian government’s justification is also made clear. However, the evidence also suggests that frames largely fall short when it comes to motivating people to take political action against the policy. In short, it is possible to change peoples’ minds, but harder to get them to take action.

Jana von Stein recently began as Associate Professor in the School of Political Science and International Relations at the ANU. A California native, she obtained her BA in French and International Relations at UC Berkeley, and her PhD at UCLA. She was subsequently an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, and then a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington (NZ).

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