01 Sep

Finished Thesis, New Job

Just very recently I finished writing my Master’s Thesis, it was graded last week, and today I’m starting my new job as a PhD Candidate. I will be working at the department of Social Risk and Safety Studies, at the University of Twente. I will be working on a project regarding cross-country differences in the socio-economic outcomes of fertility related decisions. I’m sure to be writing more about this project in the coming four years.

Regarding my Master’s thesis, it studies polarization in North American’s abortion attitudes. I was able to locate a very nice lacuna in the literature, and built upon existing literature to solve this lacuna. But, without further ado, I will let the preface speak for itself:

Attitudes on the permissibility of induced abortion vary widely in the United States of America. How people think about abortion has often been the topic of scholarly studies, which highlighted aspects ranging from the level of the streets with protests either ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’, to the level of legislation and Supreme Court rulings, to the public opinion on abortion. The question whether public opinion on abortion has become more polarized received substantial attention of social scientists, as well. This study adds to this body of literature on polarization in the North Americans’ public opinion on induced abortion. It contributes a new explanatory framework on polarization of public opinion which allows much of the existing literature to be brought together, a suggestion for a statistical approach for analyzing hypotheses derived from this model, and new hypotheses derived from this model.

Chapter 1 describes a background on the abortion issue in the United States, and three generations in the development of research on abortion attitudes are identified. To contribute to the third generation, three research questions are formulated that share the goal of developing and testing an explanatory model for attitude polarization. In chapter 2, it is explored how a theory of polarization should be formulated. A theoretical framework for such explanations is developed, based on the identification of three mechanisms constituting polarization. In chapter 3, the theoretical model is substantiated with theories on attitudes on abortion, and hypotheses on the polarization of North Americans’ attitudes towards abortion are derived. Chapter 4 contains a detailed description of the data that are used to test these hypotheses. Also, a procedure is suggested to analyze polarization. This procedure is used throughout chapter 5, in which the hypotheses formulated in the third chapter are tested. The concluding chapter 6 then relates the outcomes of these analyses back to the three research questions from the first chapter. Also, limitations of the used approach, directions for future research, and the implications of the findings for the used theories are discussed.

Several people and organizations have contributed to this project, with financial or other means. The National Opinion Research Center (NORC), the organization responsible for collecting the data of the General Social Survey used in this study, made sensitive data available for use in this study. This made it possible to take into account the state in which people live. The funds required for obtaining these additional data were made available by Ariana Need, and are part of her NWO VIDI subsidy.1 Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute sent a very detailed, historic overview on state-level legislation on abortion in the United States.

I conclude this preface by expressing my sincere and kind gratitude towards my supervisors Ariana Need and Manfred te Grotenhuis. They contributed profoundly to this project by providing ideas, advice, and methodological guidance. To me, however, of much greater importance was how they have helped me to strike a fair balance between ambition and personal life events.

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