The Politics of HPV Vaccination Advocacy:

Effects of Source Expertise on Effectiveness of a Pro-Vaccine Message

Persistent public resistance to an apparently safe, effective and life-saving public health practice such as HPV vaccination illustrates a significant issue in the communication of behavioral recommendations based on evidence-based scientific data and consensus views of scientific and medical experts. This study examines the influence of source expertise on pro-HPV-vaccine advocacy messaging effectiveness among audiences of differing political ideologies. The findings support prior research indicating greater resistance to HPV vaccination among political conservatives. Subjects who self-identified politically as Centrists and Conservatives were significantly less likely to think deeply about a pro-HPV advocacy message delivered by an expert spokesperson than were politically self-identified Progressives. Conservatives who viewed a pro-HPV vaccination message delivered by a non-expert spokesperson had significantly more positive attitudes toward HPV vaccination than Conservatives who received no advocacy message (the control condition). By contrast, attitudes of Conservatives who viewed a pro-HPV vaccination message delivered by an expert spokesperson were not significantly different from those who received no advocacy message. The findings suggest an over-reliance on expert spokespeople for delivering science-based behavioral recommendations.