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framing, public opinion, stories, foreign aid


“In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything.” Just as in Abraham Lincoln’s day, today our nation’s course is influenced by public opinion. Thus, understanding which frame best elicits a change in public opinion will provide agencies with a more effective model to change voters’ opinions.

A frame is the presentation of an idea or fact, meant to encourage a specific interpretation. In this study, the issue of foreign aid will be framed as stories and facts. A story frame will portray information about a community or individual affected by U.S. foreign aid using the “Universal Story Structure.” A fact frame will consist of big data, numbers and figures presented in five bullet points.

Previous studies have shown that correcting wrong perceptions about aid practices can improve support for aid. My project goes a step further and answers the next logical question; which frame of aid will have the strongest effect. A study carried out by Dr. Paul Zak reveals that narratives following the “Universal Story Structure” change behavior by changing brain chemistry (Zak 2012). My main finding is that participants with negative opinions of foreign aid are 6 times more likely to support foreign aid after reading a positive story frame.


The Annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Research Conference showcases some of the best student research from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. The mentored learning program encourages undergraduate students to participate in hands-on and practical research under the direction of a faculty member. Students create these posters as an aide in presenting the results of their research to the public, faculty, and their peers.

Document Type


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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science

University Standing at Time of Publication


A Tall Tale: How Stories Can Change U.S. Public Opinion