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    'Appeals to nature' in marriage equality debates: A content analysis of newspaper and social media discourse

    O'Connor, Cliodhna (2017) 'Appeals to nature' in marriage equality debates: A content analysis of newspaper and social media discourse. British Journal of Social Psychology, 56 (3). pp. 493-514. ISSN 0144-6665

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    In May 2015, Ireland held a referendum to legalize same‐sex marriage, which passed with 62% of the vote. This study explores the role played by ‘appeals to nature’ in the referendum debate. Little research has investigated how biological attributions are spontaneously generated in real‐world discourse regarding sexual rights. Through content analysis of newspaper and Twitter discussion of the referendum, this study aims to (1) establish the frequency of appeals to nature and their distribution across the various ‘sides’ of the debate and (2) analyse the forms these natural claims took and the rhetorical functions they fulfilled. Appeals to nature occurred in a minority of media discussion of the referendum (13.6% of newspaper articles and .3% of tweets). They were more prominent in material produced by anti‐marriage equality commentators. Biological attributions predominantly occurred in relation to parenthood, traditional marriage, gender, and homosexuality. The article analyses the rhetorical dynamics of these natural claims and considers the implications for marriage equality research and activism. The analysis suggests appeals to nature allow anti‐marriage equality discourse adapt to a cultural context that proscribes outright disapproval of same‐sex relationships. However, it also queries whether previous research has overemphasized the significance of biological attributions in discourse about groups’ rights.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: appeals to nature; biological attributions; content analysis; essentialism; marriage equality; newspapers; same‐sex marriage; social media; Twitter;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 11719
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Cliodhna O'Connor
    Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2019 11:40
    Journal or Publication Title: British Journal of Social Psychology
    Publisher: Wiley
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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