Considerable research in social psychology suggests that negative information can have greater impact than positive information in creating attitudes. Other research has shown that negative attitudes may be more impactful than are positive attitudes. For example, research has demonstrated that political campaigns in which candidates present negative, logical information about their opponents yield higher voter turnout than do positive political campaigns. Just as negative information can be more impactful on attitudes and negative attitudes can be more impactful on behavior, it is possible that merely perceiving one's attitudes as being negative will have similar effects.
Depending on how an issue is framed, people can think of themselves as having either a positive or negative attitude toward that issue. For example, a person who thinks that hate speech should be outlawed can either support banning hate speech or oppose allowing hate speech. Just as negative information is given greater weight in judgments than positive information, it could be that attitudes framed in a negative manner (opposing abortion) are given greater weight than attitudes framed in a positive manner (e.g., favoring right to life). If so, people should be more resistant to changing these attitudes.
Prior research indicated that framing attitudes negatively does indeed lead to greater resistance to persuasion than does framing attitudes positively. In two studies, participants were led to create attitudes toward either candidates running for a local election or toward a campus proposal. After reporting these attitudes on both dichotomous and continuous measures, participants learned additional information that ran counter to their initial attitudes. After they read the persuasive message, participants re-reported their attitudes. In both studies, participants who indicated "support" showed more subsequent attitude change than did participants who indicated "oppose.