Terminology and efforts to frame an issue have no effect on public opinion concerning the ongoing debate in the U.S. over legalizing same-sex marriage, a study by Indiana University researchers has found.
Using an experimental approach involving a nationally representative sample, the researchers found that beliefs and values held sway, not rhetoric, such as the use of 'same-sex couple' instead of 'homosexual couple' or using the term 'civil rights' instead of 'gay rights.'
"Framing, wording doesn't matter," said Oren Pizmony-Levy, a doctoral student in IU's Department of Sociology. He discussed the study on Monday at the American Sociological Association 2010 Annual Meeting. "We need to stop trying to change the rhetoric and focus on the important issues, such as the benefits that children in same-sex families gain from the legalization of same-sex marriage."
Co-author Aaron Ponce, also a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, said the findings are particularly interesting in light of the recent Proposition 8 decision in California. While certain frames don't matter when it comes to public opinion about same-sex marriage, because beliefs and values tend to be strong, framing might matter when used in courts of law.
"Justice Walker framed the same-sex marriage issue as a failure of due process, that is, as the abridgment of a fundamental right for same-sex partners to marry," Ponce said. "The way this issue has been framed may have repercussions for how the case is heard on appeal in higher courts. The question then becomes whether same-sex marriage frames function differently in the context of law and justice than they do with public opinion."