Does the Messenger Matter? A Survey Experiment to Understand Citizen Support for Secure Storage Policy in America

In the debate over how to best address the public health crisis of gun violence in America, we often hear policy makers calling for “common sense gun laws” in their effort to promote restrictive gun policies such as universal background checks, Emergency Risk Protection Orders, and Child Access Protection legislation. However, the idea of “common sense” in policy rational may be problematic because common sense may not be all that common. If common sense is what we perceive as good judgement or sound decision making it can vary from person to person, because perception of what is good or sound is informed by our own knowledge and experiences. In the case of gun policy, what is common sense to a gun owner may not be common sense to a non-owner and vice versa. 
This study will improve our understanding of “if” and “how” presenting gun policy from a known trusted messenger; a permissive gun advocacy group such as the NRA; a government agency like the CDC; or as “common sense” impacts a person’s support for a policy. We will also seek to understand whether or not the effect varies by issue salience (e.g., in this case, how important gun access or gun control is to the focal person). Gun policy is often contentious and politicized. Therefore, better understanding how a particular messenger affects message receptivity can help improve the quality and the effectiveness of conversations related to this gun policy. Such information will be useful as America considers and adopts future gun legislation – especially given the incremental nature of the policy process. 

Project Status
In progress

Principal Investigator (PI): Kerri M. Raissian, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Connecticut 

Co-Principal Investigator (PI): Jennifer Dineen, PhD, Associate Professor in Residence of Public Policy, University of Connecticut