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Nuclear Weapons & Public Fears

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Progressives Change the Debate around Nuclear Disarmament: Practical Applications of New Psychological Research to Snatch Voters back from the Neocons

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Nuclear Weapons & Public Fears

  1. 1. Getting to Zero How Americans Reason About Nuclear Disarmament, Terrorism, and National Defense American Environics, November 2008
  2. 2. Mission: Understand underlying psychological factors behind why people believe what they believe. AE hired to understand the basic ways in which people reason — not to do message testing. The things people believe are often irrational (i.e. against their self-interest) and unconscious (i.e., people often don’t know that they are scared, or what they believe). People rationalize unconscious and irrational behaviors and beliefs — thus we should be suspicious of those rationalizations.
  3. 3. We are strangers to ourselves… My memory says, ‘I did that.’ My pride says, ‘I could not have done that.’ And my memory yields.” Friedrich Nietzsche
  4. 4. Tradition of political psychology began in post-war era in attempt to understand why ordinary Germans supported the Nazis (e.g., Milgram) Nietzsche, Freud, Arendt, Adorno, Altemeyer “ Conservative ideologies like virtually all other belief systems, are adopted in part because they satisfy various psychological needs.” — Jost et al., 2003 Team: Dr. John Jost (NYU), Dr. Robb Willer (UC-B), Dr. Pamela Morgan, Nick Adams, Ted Nordhaus, Dr. John Whaley, Michael Shellenberger (AE)
  5. 5. Methods Lit review of 91 academic sources and hundreds of experimental samples by top national social psychologist. Some sources, such as Jost et al (2003), covered 88 samples and included over 22,000 subjects. Segmentation of electorate based on underlying psychological drivers of opinion. Cognitive linguistic analysis of four focus groups. Experimental survey testing morality and effectiveness frames
  6. 6. Hierarchy of needs/modernization theory (Maslow, Inglehart): Psychology, sociology, and history all show that humans must get basic security and material needs met before we strongly desire, demand and defend civil liberties.
  7. 7. Mortality salience: Higher than normal fear of death, resulting in system justification and increased support for authoritarianism, pro-war ideologies. Terror Management Theory: As people become more fearful, they are more motivated to protect their world, especially against intruders. Authoritarianism (RWA): Stronger than normal support for — and trust in — government power to protect national security.
  8. 8. System justification: Justification of government and corporate power, including over individual rights, minority rights, and the environment. Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) The worldview that some groups better than others and should rule lesser groups. Cognitive dissonance: Psychological distress from attempting to hold two apparently contradictory ideas at one time. In Group/Out Group: Knowing who’s on our side, who’s not, becomes more important to people in situations of threat.
  9. 9. Research Questions If mortality salience motivates conservative attitudes on human rights, what triggers this increased fear? How do we avoid triggering mortality salience, authoritarianism, and system justification? What narratives, meanings, and frames can we use to advance a more effective, intelligent and moral national security policy? Could an affirmative counterterrorism and national security agenda and strategy help protect and advance rights while making people feel more secure?
  10. 10. Values-Based Segmentation of Electorate Cannot generalize about voters — must understand how they reason differently. Must look underneath stated opinions to underlying psychology and values. American Values Survey method: 800 questions, household survey, 1,803 sample, +/-2.3% margin of error. Household survey avoids “so cial desirability bias ” Special battery co-created with Dr. Robb Willer, includes personality, SDO, and questions drawn from academic surveys measuring key political psych concepts. Foreign policy, national security, nuclear questions replicate those in PIPA, Pew, Gallup and other surveys.
  11. 11. Segmentation Factors Public segmented according to six factors. Each factor comprises questions that are strongly correlated with one another. Peace and security factor #1: Use of nuclear weapons (6 questions) Peace and security factor #2: Multilateralism and diplomacy, Iraq and Iran (6 questions) Peace and security factor #3: Fear of terrorist attack (2 questions) National security/human rights factor #1: Privacy, intrusion, ACLU (4 questions) National security/human rights factor #2: Self expression, government repression (2 questions)
  12. 12. Acceptance of Violence Active Government Anomie-Aimlessness Just Desserts Civic Apathy Confidence in Big Business Ecological Fatalism Everyday Rage Racial Fusion Technology Anxiety Xenophobia Ostentatious Consumption Fatalism Importance of Brand Enthusiasm for New Technology Penchant for Risk Joy of Consumption Multiculturalism Sexual Permissiveness Need for Status Recognition Attraction for Crowds Intuition & Impulse Personal Escape Largesse Oblige Community Involvement Adaptive Navigation Look Good Feel Good Pursuit of Intensity Fear of Violence Personal Challenge Obedience to Authority Vitality Parochialism Traditional Gender Identity Adaptability to Complexity Search for Roots Ecological Concern Equal Relationship with Youth Financial Security Work Ethic Aversion to Complexity Religion a la Carte Interest in the Unexplained Propriety Faith in Science Traditional Family Social Intimacy National Pride Emotional Control American Dream Heterarchy Duty Flexible Gender Identity Sensualism Social Responsibility Ethical Consumerism Global Consciousness Cultural Assimilation Effort Toward Health Religiosity Holistic Health Culture Sampling Rejection of Authority Entrepreneurialism Personal Creativity Meaningful Moments Spiritual Quest Rejection of Order Gender Parity Importance of Spontaneity Everyday Ethics Introspection & Empathy Flexible Families Personal Control Civic Engagement Brand Apathy Patriarchy Sexism American Entitlement Social Mobility Conformity to Norms Modern Racism Acknowledgement of Racism Need for Uniqueness Status Via Home Deconsumption Crude Materialism NEW Socio-Cultural Trends AUTHORITY INDIVIDUALITY SURVIVAL FULFILLMENT United States 2007 Group-Based Social Dominance Male Decline and Discombobulation Collapse Apocolypse Traditionalism Belief in Good and Evil Maslow Outer-Directed Esteem Importance of National Stability Reluctance to Change Lipset Win at All Costs Death Anxiety Female Decline and Discombobulation Maslow Inner-Directed Esteem Lipset Personal Control Maslow Meaningless Life and Future SDO Opposition to Equality Maslow Basic Needs Maslow Self-Actualized Maslow Belonging Lipset Key Aspects of Freedom Trust Altruism Animal Equality Comfort with Ambiguity Gratitude Maslow Meaningful Life and Future Discomfort with Ambiguity Distrust Openness to Change Rejection of Tradition
  13. 14. Our Base: “Engaged Egalitarians ” (COO2 - 16%) and Bo undless Anti-authoritarians ” (COO6 - 9%) Focus groups done with two swing segments Swings: Town Square Faithful (COO1 – 27%) and Reluctant Fearful (COO3 – 15%) Swing segments chosen because we believe they will be most receptive to progressive arguments on national security and human rights.
  14. 15. Town Square Faithfuls Traditional, religious, community-oriented, militaristic — but divided on Iraq, use of nukes, unilateralism. “ It is important to play by the rules, which explains why members of this segment have the second highest level of support for honoring international treaties, even though they also can support a go-it-alone war. “ Th is is why Town Square Faithfuls are such a compelling swing segment. They score very high on National Pride and Importance of National Stability , but score fairly low on American Entitlement . “ It is not a blind faith that they have for their country; it’s important to them for America to do the right thing, as they believe it usually has.”
  15. 16. Town Square Faithfuls Male: 44 Female: 56 White: 75 Black: 14 Latino: 9 Asian: 2 Liberal: 6 Moderate: 56 Conservative: 48 Born Again: 68 Dem: 32 Ind: 25 Rep: 43
  16. 17. Reluctant Fearfuls More fearful but less ideological than Town Square Faithful. Moderately liberal on nukes and militarism, moderately conservative on privacy, intrusion, liberties. Th e top value is Aversion to Complexity . Intimidated and threatened by the vagaries of modern life, Reluctant Fearfuls like things to be simple and straightforward. And when things aren’t, as is usually the case, their typical response is a mixture of stress, fear and desire to flee. “ Se venty-six percent of Reluctant Fearfuls identify as political moderates. It’s not so much that they are always centrist in their views, it’s more that they don’t like going out on a limb. They don’t want to upset the status quo ”
  17. 18. Reluctant Fearfuls Male: 39 Female: 61 White: 63 Black: 18 Latino: 16 Asian: 3 Liberal: 9 Moderate: 75 Conservative: 15 Dem: 42 Ind: 28 Rep: 30
  18. 19. <ul><li>Finding #1: </li></ul><ul><li>Nukes + Terror = Fear of Death </li></ul><ul><li>Linking t e rrorists with nuclear weapons results in “mortality salience” (fear of death) </li></ul><ul><li>Mortality salience is strongly correlated with pro-war worldview. </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>Finding #2: </li></ul><ul><li>Nukes and Terror are Two Different Mental Frames </li></ul><ul><li>People think differently about how to defend against from terrorists vs. nuclear attack . </li></ul><ul><li>1. Terrorism: Preemptive defense </li></ul><ul><li>2. Nuclear: Shield defense(deterrence) </li></ul>vs.
  20. 21. <ul><li>Finding #3: Terrorism frame leads people to justify preemptive nuclear strike. </li></ul><ul><li>When the preemptive de fense against terrorism frame is associated with nuclear weapons, it leads people to justify the preemptive use of military force — and even nuclear weapons. </li></ul><ul><li>This includes Iran, which is viewed as a terrorist state. </li></ul>
  21. 22. <ul><li>Finding #4: Shield metaphor supports disarmament, but only up to a point. </li></ul><ul><li>Shield metaphor requires only that shield be strong enough to deter adversaries from attacking U.S. </li></ul><ul><li>Public thus might support some reduction in size of U.S. arsenal… </li></ul><ul><li>… but not all the way to zero, which they believe would leave U.S. vulnerable. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, if disarmament is unilateral it must be done in a way that is perceived as not creating disadvantage for US. </li></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><ul><li>Finding #5: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nuclear nonproliferation arguments work only with particular nation states </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Traditional nuclear non-proliferation arguments work in the context of nation-states that the public perceives can be reasoned with , such as India and Russia. </li></ul></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>Finding #6: Deterrence viewed as possible with N. Korea </li></ul><ul><li>Kim Jong-il perceived as imposing his rule on a generally reasonable country, interested in self-preservation and maintaining his power. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, deterrence and negotiation viewed as effective. </li></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>Finding #7: Deterrence viewed as impossible with Iran </li></ul><ul><li>Ahmadinejad viewed as unstable, extreme, and bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States, and willing to die for beliefs. </li></ul><ul><li>Iran viewed as terrorist state. </li></ul><ul><li>Voters thus believe Iran can’t be allowed to gain nukes. </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-emptive strike thus viewed as justified. </li></ul><ul><li>Israel perceived as likely to act so we don’t have to. </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>Recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>Do not link terrorism and nuclear weapons </li></ul><ul><li>When talking about disarmament, use India and Russia as prototypical examples. </li></ul><ul><li>Normalize relations with, and perceptions of, Iran. </li></ul><ul><li>Frame U.S. nuclear stockpile as duplicative and unnecessary. </li></ul>

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