Matthew Motta

Matthew Motta
Boston University | BU · School of Public Health

Doctor of Philosophy

About

62
Publications
13,491
Reads
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1,718
Citations
Citations since 2017
59 Research Items
1717 Citations
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Introduction
My research focuses on a wide range of topics related to American politics, public opinion, science communication, and both health and environmental policy. I am especially interested in identifying the social and political determinants of anti-science attitudes, and investigating their policy impact. I am also broadly interested in designing communication strategies that promote effective engagement between the public and the scientific community on politically contentious issues.
Additional affiliations
July 2018 - July 2019
University of Pennsylvania
Position
  • PostDoc Position
July 2018 - July 2019
Yale University
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Education
August 2013 - June 2019
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Field of study
  • Political Science

Publications

Publications (62)
Article
Some might expect the promise of ending a global pandemic via vaccination to interrupt conventional partisan media effect processes. We test that possibility by bringing together sentiment-scored COVID vaccine stories (N > 17,000) from cable and mainstream news outlets, N > 180,000 Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports, and six ori...
Article
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have studied how Americans' attitudes toward health experts influence their health behaviors and policy opinions. Fewer, however, consider the potential gap between individual and expert opinion about COVID-19, and how that might shape health attitudes and behavior. This omission is notable, as discrepa...
Preprint
Even amid the unprecedented public health challenges attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition to vaccinating against the novel coronavirus has been both prevalent and politically contentious in American public life. In this paper, we theorize that attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination might "spill over" to shape attitudes toward “post-pand...
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Full-text available
Background In almost all countries, COVID-19 vaccines available for public use are produced outside of that country. Consistent with recent social science research, we hypothesize that legacies of violent conflict from vaccine-producing against vaccine-consuming countries may motivate vaccine hesitancy among people in targeted countries that purcha...
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Full-text available
Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States will require most Americans to vaccinate against the disease. However, considerable research suggests that a significant proportion of Americans intend to forego vaccination, putting pandemic recovery at risk. Republicans are one of the largest groups of COVID-19 vaccine hesitant individuals. Th...
Preprint
Pundits and public health experts alike suspect that Facebook plays a role in not only exposing Americans to public health misinformation, but potentially encouraging them to seek out misinformation from other sources. Whether or not Facebook is responsible for stimulating misinformation consumption beyond the social networking site, however, is an...
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Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, until recently the host of a nationally syndicated U.S. television show, is among the media figures who have espoused health views unsanctioned by established medical authorities such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. In a large, probability-based national lo...
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Political sophistication systematically affects the structure, crystallization, and use of political values, but it remains unclear if sophistication manifests similar effects on human values. This paper integrates Shalom Schwartz (Adv Exp Soc Psychol 25:1–65, 1992, J Soc Issues 50:19–45, 1994) theory of human values with sophistication interaction...
Article
Background Growing narratives emphasize using primary care physicians as leaders in efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccination among the vaccine hesitant. Critically however, little is known about vaccine confidence among primary care physicians themselves. The objective of this study was to assess both physician confidence that in general, vaccines a...
Preprint
While vaccination against COVID-19 represents a clear path toward resuming “normal life,” attitudes toward vaccination and vaccine uptake has been highly politically contentious. In this paper, we investigate (1) whether or not partisan news outlets covered COVID-vaccination issues in different ways, and (2) whether differences in coverage contribu...
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Background Efforts to trace the rise of childhood vaccine safety concerns in the US often suggest Andrew Wakefield and colleagues’ retracted 1998 Lancet study (AW98)–which alleged that the MMR vaccine can cause children to develop autism–as a primary cause of US vaccine skepticism. However, a lack of public opinion data on MMR safety collected befo...
Preprint
Attempts to explain the higher levels of vaccine skepticism among Black Americans frequentlyfocus on the history of racial discrimination within the American healthcare system. Whilestudying this discrimination is important, we argue that past research overlooks the role of law enforcement actors outside the healthcare system; both in their history...
Article
Vaccine safety skeptics are often thought to be more likely to self-identify as Democrats (vs. Independents or Republicans). Recent studies, however, suggest that childhood vaccine misinformation is either more common among Republicans, or is uninfluenced by partisan identification (PID). Uncertainty about the partisan underpinnings of vaccine misi...
Article
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the federal government and local governments across the U.S. recommended that Americans engage in social distancing and other prosocial health behaviors (e.g. wearing a mask in public). While social scientists know a fair amount about compliance with these recommendations, we know less about why some peop...
Article
Scholarly and journalistic profiles of anti-vaxxers – i.e., individuals who are active in efforts to oppose widespread vaccination – suggest that some Americans may identify with the “anti-vaccine” label in order to fulfill social goals (e.g., a sense of belonging in a broader community). This is potentially problematic, as anti-vaxx social identif...
Article
Counterintuitively, wealthier countries tend to be more vaccine skeptical than poorer countries. One possible explanation—the Online Accessibility hypothesis—posits that internet access facilitates the spread of antivaccine misinformation, particularly for those lower in scientific and medical expert trust. Another explanation—the Out of Sight hypo...
Preprint
Background. Efforts to trace the rise of childhood vaccine safety concerns in the US often suggest Andrew Wakefield and colleagues’ retracted 1998 Lancet study (AW98) – which alleged that the MMR vaccine can cause children to develop autism – as a primary cause of US vaccine skepticism. However, a lack of public opinion data on MMR safety collected...
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Full-text available
Elections represent infrequent, high-leverage opportunities for everyday individuals to contribute to climate change mitigation. In this perspective, we present two ways of thinking about the climate impact of voting in elections. The first, “emissions responsibility,” intuitively apportions emissions to voters according to popular principles in ca...
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Context: Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic will require most Americans to vaccinate against the virus. Unfortunately, previous research suggests that many Americans plan to refuse a vaccine; thereby jeopardizing collective immunity. We investigate the effectiveness of three different health communication frames hypothesized to increase vaccine inten...
Article
Objective A vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could prove critical in establishing herd immunity. While past work has documented the prevalence and correlates of vaccine refusal, I assess how a less explored topic -- properties of vaccines themselves (e.g., national origin, efficacy, risk of side effects) -- might influence vaccination i...
Article
Over the past decade, Americans have become increasingly likely to believe that climate change is anthropogenic, or caused by human activities (e.g., Funk & Kennedy, 2019; Gallup, 2019; Leiserowitz et al., 2019). For example, recent Gallup surveys find that while just 50% of Americans expressed belief in anthropogenic climate change (ACC) in March...
Preprint
Context: Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic will require millions of Americans to vaccinate against the virus. Unfortunately, previous research suggests that many Americans plan to refuse a vaccine; thereby jeopardizing collective immunity. We investigate the effectiveness of three different health communication frames hypothesized to increase vaccin...
Article
Candidates with STEM backgrounds ran for Congress in record numbers in 2018. Understanding who participates in this form of “mobilized science,” and whether they are successful, is important because these candidates may campaign—and ultimately take action—to advance science-informed policies. However, whereas there is ample journalistic coverage of...
Preprint
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Vaccine skepticism interferes with governments’ abilities to maintain public safety. However, vaccine skepticism positively predicts country wealth rather than negatively. One explanation is that higher internet access could help spread anti-vaccine misinformation throughout society, particularly for those lower in scientific and medical expert tru...
Preprint
Objective: A vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could prove critical in establishing herd immunity. While past work has documented the prevalence and correlates of vaccine refusal, I assess how a less explored topic -- properties of vaccines themselves (e.g., national origin, efficacy, risk of side effects) -- might influence vaccination...
Preprint
Full-text available
Vaccine skepticism interferes with governments’ abilities to maintain public safety. However, vaccine skepticism positively predicts country wealth rather than negatively. One explanation is that higher internet access could help spread anti-vaccine misinformation throughout society, particularly for those lower in scientific and medical expert tru...
Article
Objective: To understand the correlates of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the American public and the reasons why individuals intend to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. Rationale: Recent polls suggest that a significant share of the American public is reluctant to receive an impending COVID-19 vaccine. However, far less is known about which Americans are...
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Military service members are a highly trusted group – especially among ideological conservatives. Consequently, we devised an environmental communication strategy that attributes pro-climate messages to military service members, aimed at convincing conservative climate skeptics to express elevated concern. In a large survey experiment, we show that...
Preprint
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal government and local governments across the U.S. recommended that individuals engage in social distancing and other prosocial health behaviors (e.g., wear a mask when out in public). While social scientists know a fair amount about the extent to which people complied with these recommendations, far les...
Article
Theories of symbolic ideology view it as an affective orientation untouched by ideational content. Drawing on Shalom Schwartz's theory of basic human values, we propose that four bedrock values—universalism, openness to change, conservation, and self‐enhancement—shape symbolic ideology. We explore whether politically sophisticated and unsophisticat...
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Medical folk wisdom (MFW) refers to widely held, but factually inaccurate, beliefs about disease, immunity, pregnancy, and other medically-relevant topics. Examples include the idea that fasting when feverish (“starving a fever”) can increase the pace of recovery, or that showering after sex can prevent pregnancy. The pervasiveness of MFW, and whet...
Preprint
With public health dangers of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) unlikely to subside by the Fall 2020, several states are considering implementing universal vote by mail systems in advance of the General Election. Studying Americans' demand for these policies is important, as support for universal vote by mail could place pressure on policymakers to...
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Full-text available
How Right-Leaning Media Coverage of COVID-19 Facilitated the Spread of Misinformation in the Early Stages of the Pandemic in the U.S. - Matt Motta, Dominik Stecula, Christina Farhart
Article
Are Americans aware and concerned about White nationalism in the U.S. Military? Our large and demographically representative survey suggests that while most Americans suspect at least some presence of White nationalism in the military, many do not view it as a serious problem; particularly self-identified conservatives and respondents who hold high...
Preprint
In recent weeks, several academic and journalistic outlets have documented widespread misinformation about the origins and potential treatment for COVID-19. This misinformation could have important public health consequences if misinformed people are less likely to heed the advice of public health experts. While some have anecdotally tied the preva...
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Many Americans endorse misinformation about vaccine safety. This is problematic because those who do are more likely to resist evidence-based policies, such as mandatory vaccination for school attendance. Although many have attempted to correct misinformation about vaccines, few attempts have been successful. This study uses psychological correlate...
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The VANMaN model provides social scientists with a parsimonious framework for understanding and addressing a wide range of fraudulent health claims, and their behavioral consequences. In this commentary, I demonstrate VANMaN's ability to generate testable corrective health communication messages by applying it to an emerging conspiracy theory; the...
Article
Science curious people—those who enjoy consuming science-related information—are less likely to hold politically polarized views about contentious science. Consequently, science curiosity is of great interest to scholars across the social sciences. However, measuring science curiosity via the science curiosity scale (SCS) is time intensive; potenti...
Article
Public opinion researchers often find changing attitudes about pressing public health issues to be a difficult task and even when attitudes do change, behaviors often do not. However, salient real-world events have the ability to bring public health crises to the fore in unique ways. To assess the impact of localized public health events on individ...
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Few Americans demand that their local policy-makers take action to address the effects of large earthquakes, even in ‘high-risk’ areas. This poses an important political problem. If policy-makers do not perceive a mandate to prepare for catastrophe, certain areas of the country may be vulnerable to loss of life and economic productivity. Why do Ame...
Article
Objective: The study of vaccine hesitancy identifies parental decisions to delay childhood vaccinations as an important public health issue, with consequences for immunization rates, the pursuit of nonmedical exemptions in states, and disease outbreaks. While prior work has explored the demographic and social underpinnings of parental decisions to...
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The extent to which Americans—especially Republicans—believe in anthropogenic climate change (ACC) has recently been the subject of high profile academic and popular disagreement. We offer a novel framework, and experimental data, for making sense of this debate. Using a large (N = 7,019) and demographically diverse sample of US adults, we compare...
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https://theconversation.com/veterans-are-concerned-about-climate-change-and-that-matters-110685
Article
While most Americans recognize the importance of funding scientific research, many are satisfied with status quo funding, and only a minority see a need for increased federal support. This poses a potential challenge to scientists' abilities to address complex policy problems, like climate change. Previous correlational research suggests that publi...
Article
Americans’ attitudes toward scientists have become more negative in recent years. Although researchers have considered several individual-level factors that might explain this change, little attention has been given to the political actions of scientists themselves. This article considers how March for Science rallies that took place across the Uni...
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People who distrust scientists are more likely to reject scientific consensus, and are more likely to support politicians who are sceptical of scientific research¹. Consequently, boosting Americans’ trust in scientists is a central goal of science communication². However, while previous research has identified several correlates of distrust in clim...
Article
Objective: Although the benefits of vaccines are widely recognized by medical experts, public opinion about vaccination policies is mixed. We analyze public opinion about vaccination policies to assess whether Dunning-Kruger effects can help to explain anti-vaccination policy attitudes. Rationale: People low in autism awareness - that is, the kn...
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Recently, Americans have become increasingly likely to hold anti-intellectual attitudes (i.e., negative affect toward scientists and other experts). However, few have investigated the political implications of anti-intellectualism, and much empirical uncertainty surrounds whether or not these attitudes can be mitigated. Drawing on cross-sectional G...
Article
The 2014 elections were widely viewed as a referendum on the presidency of Barack Obama. Republicans ran against the incumbent president, and many view the Republican Party's victories in 2014 as a mass rejection of President Obama's policies. We argue that this account of the 2014 elections is incomplete. We advance the theory of racial spillover—...
Article
Multiple identity and identification terms are used in social science research on sexuality, including clinical terms such as “homosexual” and “heterosexual” and more colloquial terms such as “gay” and “straight.” In this article, we show that far from being synonyms, these terms have consequences for attitudes about gay and lesbian rights. We begi...
Article
Internet surveys are cost-effective and convenient, but give respondents the opportunity to search the Web for answers to factual questions. Surprisingly, few have investigated the quality of political knowledge data collected in crowd-sourced Internet samples. Using a novel technique to identify individual “cheaters” across six data sets—collected...
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Full-text available
Political scientists interested in studying the political implications of citizens’ cognitive abilities often turn to readily available “intelligence ratings” in the American National Election Studies (ANES). These ratings are generally thought to represent respondents’ cognitive abilities, albeit imperfectly. I hypothesize that these ratings do no...

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Project (1)
Project
Research related to ongoing work on civil-military relations.