Justice Matters. News Framing Effects on Opinions about Pension Reform

Linda van den Heijkant*, Martine van Selm, Iina Hellsten, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


As aging populations put pressure on pension systems worldwide, pension reforms have dominated the (political) agenda in many countries for years. The media are essential information providers on such hotly debated issues. By selecting and highlighting certain aspects of an issue and glossing over others, also known as framing, news media can propagate a particular interpretation of the issue to the public. This study therefore approaches pension reform from the perspective of the media by examining how news frames of pension reform (i.e., responsibility frame and justice frame) influence how citizens perceive and respond to pension reform. Findings of an online survey-embedded experiment (N = 762) show that citizens who encountered a news frame that emphasized individual or collective responsibility for pensions showed a stronger preference for this type of responsibility; however, this effect was only positive if news media also framed individual or collective responsibility for pensions as just. In fact, exposure to an unjust frame leads to more negative attitudes toward the specific form of responsibility. Regarding individual differences, lower-educated people are more strongly impacted by the responsibility frame than higher-educated people. The strength of framing effects did not differ among citizens of different ages or levels of solidarity, nor between citizens who received the frames via their primary mode of news use and the ones exposed to a less preferred mode of news use. This study shows the importance of news framing in shaping citizens’ attitudes toward pension reforms, suggesting that media coverage matters in the public debate on pensions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberwaad011
JournalWork, Aging and Retirement
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2023


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