Attitudes towards socially sensitive topics tend to be polarized and moralized. Literature showed that in the political arena people tend to consider their group different from the outgroup in moral terms, and how this perceived distance is capable of producing discrimination against the outgroup. In light of this evidence, the aim of this study (N = 234) was to examine the dynamics between Pro-vaxers and No-vaxers in relation to the SARS-COV-2 vaccine. Participants evaluated the strength of their attitude towards the COVID-19 vaccine, and the extent to which this attitude was moralized. They reported the perceived moral distance between the ingroup and the outgroup and completed a scale of outgroup animalistic dehumanization. Results showed a positive association between the strength of the attitude towards the vaccine and its moralization. The tendency to moralize the attitude was positively associated with the perception of moral distance between ingroup and outgroup, and this positively associated with the outgroup dehumanization. A sequential mediation model showed an indirect effect that links attitude strength to dehumanization through attitude moralization and the perception of moral distance between groups. Results are discussed in the light of recent theories on the moralization of attitudes and its importance in institutional communication. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.
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