Morally Reframed Arguments Can Affect Support for Political Candidates


Moral reframing involves crafting persuasive arguments that appeal to the targets’ moral values but argue in favor of something they would typically oppose. Applying this technique to one of the most politically polarizing events—political campaigns—we hypothesized that messages criticizing one’s preferred political candidate that also appeal to that person’s moral values can decrease support for the candidate. We tested this claim in the context of the 2016 American presidential election. In Study 1, conservatives reading a message opposing Donald Trump grounded in a more conservative value (loyalty) supported him less than conservatives reading a message grounded in more liberal concerns (fairness). In Study 2, liberals reading a message opposing Hillary Clinton appealing to fairness values were less supportive of Clinton than liberals in a loyalty-argument condition. These results highlight how moral reframing can be used to overcome the rigid stances partisans often hold and help develop political acceptance.