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The Relationship Between Human Values and Attitudes Toward the Park51 and Nuclear Power Controversies

Clay Templeton and Kenneth R. Fleischmann

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


Recent events such as the Fukushima nuclear accident as well as the Park51 project in downtown Manhattan create "critical discourse moments," explosions of discourse around a topic that provide opportunities to understand the relationships between human values and attitudes toward these controversies. The goal of this paper is to study these relationships quickly enough to be useful both to social scientists and to policy makers by using a crowdsourced social science approach. Human values provide conceptions of the desirable that shape attitudes toward these controversies. This paper seeks to answer the following research question: What are the relationships between people's values and their attitudes toward current events such as the Park51 and nuclear power controversies? Data collection was conducted using crowdsourcing facilitated by Amazon's Mechanical Turk platform. A series of three experiments were performed in which Turkers were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement with paragraphs taken from popular press sources about both of these controversies, as well as Turker-generated paragraphs about the Park51 project. The results revealed relationships between values and attitudes toward these controversies, including consistently statistically significant relationships between the value of universalism and positive attitudes toward Park51 and between the value of security and negative attitudes toward Park51. These findings further our understanding of the role of values in determining attitudes toward these controversies, and also demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach for collecting real-time data about ongoing controversies. Thus, this research is of relevance both for social science and for public policy, and may also have applications for natural language processing.

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