The Journal of Politics


Risk Orientations and Policy Frames

Cindy D. Kama1 and Elizabeth N. Simasa2

a1 Vanderbilt University

a2 University of California, Davis


In this article, we examine the effect of citizens’ risk orientations on policy choices that are framed in various ways. We introduce an original risk orientations scale and test for the relationship between risk orientations and policy preferences using an original survey experiment. We find that individuals with higher levels of risk acceptance are more likely to prefer probabilistic outcomes as opposed to certain outcomes. Mortality and survival frames influence the choices citizens make, but so does our individual-difference measure of risk acceptance. Finally, using a unique within-subject design, we find that risk acceptance undercuts susceptibility to framing effects across successive framing scenarios. The findings suggest that citizens’ risk orientations are consequential in determining their policy views and their susceptibility to framing effects.

(Received August 04 2008)

(Accepted June 22 2009)


Cindy D. Kam is Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235.

Elizabeth N. Simas is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616.