Partisan differences in the effects of economic evidence and local data on legislator engagement with dissemination materials about behavioral health: a dissemination trial

Jonathan Purtle, Katherine L. Nelson, Luwam Gebrekristos, Félice Lê-Scherban, Sarah E. Gollust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: State legislators make policy decisions that influence children's exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as child maltreatment, and their effects on behavioral health. Effective dissemination of scientific research can increase the likelihood that legislators' decisions are aligned with evidence to prevent ACEs and their consequences, and effective dissemination requires legislators to engage with dissemination materials. Informed by the elaboration likelihood model of persuasive communication and Brownson's Model of Dissemination Research, we tested the hypothesis that inclusion of economic evidence and local data would increase legislator engagement with dissemination materials about evidence-supported policies related to ACEs and behavioral health.

METHODS: A three-arm randomized dissemination trial was conducted. A university researcher e-mailed dissemination materials which contained evidence about ACEs and behavioral health problems to state legislators (two e-mails sent 2 weeks apart, 12,662 e-mails delivered to 6509 legislators). The e-mail subject lines, text, and policy brief content were manipulated across the study arms. The intervention condition received state-tailored data about rates of ACEs and state-tailored economic evidence about the costs of ACEs for public systems, the enhanced control condition received state-tailored data and not economic evidence, and the control condition received national data and not economic evidence. Outcomes were rates of e-mail views, policy brief link clicks, requests for researcher consultation, and mentions of child maltreatment terms in legislators' social media posts.

RESULTS: For the first e-mail, the e-mail view rate was 42.6% higher in the intervention than in the enhanced control condition (22.8% vs. 14.8%) and 20.8% higher than in the control condition (22.8% vs. 18.5%) (both p < .0001). Similar results were observed for the second e-mail. These differences remained significant after adjustment for demographic differences across study conditions in individual-level models, but not multilevel models. There was a significant interaction between the experimental condition and political party (p < .0001) in which the intervention increased e-mail view rates among Democrats but not Republicans. The intervention had no effect on policy brief link clicks or requests for consultation and a mixed effect on social media posts.

CONCLUSIONS: Inclusion of state-tailored economic evidence in dissemination materials can increase engagement with research evidence among Democrat, but not Republican, legislators. Dissemination strategies tailored for legislators' political party affiliation may be needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (76069).

Funding Information:
Access to Quorum was provided by the Center for Health Economics of Treatment Interventions for Substance Use Disorder, HCV, and HIV (National Institute on Drug Abuse grant 1P30DA040500-01) and in partnership with the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, affiliated with The Pennsylvania State University’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Behavioral health
  • Child maltreatment
  • Dissemination
  • Legislators
  • Partisanship
  • Policymakers
  • Politics
  • United States
  • Humans
  • Child

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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