Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Howell, Susan

Second Advisor

Hadley, Charles


Using data from the 2000 American National Election Study and the Uniform Crime Reports, this research studies the impact of core values and contextual effects on gun control policy preferences. The research seeks to produce a contextually sensitive model of gun control policy preferences that accounts for the nature of the elite message war regarding the issue of gun control and for both long and short-term contextual factors that might sway individual opinions at the point of stimulus (e.g., the survey question). While the analysis does find conditioning effects, the effects do not conform to the theoretical expectations, and they are generally weaker than expected. In contrast, the research demonstrates the strong connections that formed in the public’s mind between ideological, partisan and gender-based core values and gun control policy preferences. These results are consistent with research that found the effects of political messages often vary in counterintuitive ways due to variance in the strength of the message and political awareness (Zaller 1992). Replicating this research across various time periods permits the investigation of the decay rate of impacts on individual policy preferences created by substantial, one-time contextual effects. It may be that contextual effects have a substantial impact in the short-term, but these short-term impacts are mitigated over the longterm by continual reinforcement of the basic themes employed by elites in the message war surrounding the issue.


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