This article is pretty frustrating. Another reason for this effect, and one I've always thought true, is that using nouns in English is often more circuitous, using more "fillers" like prepositions to convey the same idea, thus softening or obfuscating the harshness of the meaning communicated.
In other words, they don't seem to prove that nouns cause this effect, but that English's use of nouns causes this effect.
But yes, it would be interesting how this compares between languages. I feel like this is a common pattern in many languages though.
EDIT: another angle could be social status: some might perceive this negatively as bureaucrat speak or phony?
"I support Trump because he's tough on immigration."
"People support Trump because he's tough on immigration."
Others are less likely to get combative when it seems like you are making an observation about a third party rather than planting a flag on a core belief.
I can second the usefulness of this approach. It goes a long a way toward keeping the discussion on the issue at hand and avoiding personal defensiveness.
The speaker seems immediately out of touch with me when they use the third person. However, when they use the first person and take responsibility for their own unique views, I can understand them better even if I don't agree.
In other words, if I say "The American people want X", there are surely some Americans who don't want X and I just alienated them. If, however, I say "many Americans want X", I'm making a weaker claim that is easier to defend.
In general, I prefer that people err on the side of making a weaker claim. It's less frustrating to communicate with people willing to do so (for me, at least).
The one downside of criticizing "weasel words" is that more people start making overly broad claims that you and I do not care for.
Sure, I understand that a random person on the street might be more supportive of "I support the division of Jerusalem" over "I support dividing Jerusalem".
But someone who's entire skillset, career, and purpose is to deal with this question? SURELY, even in this post-truth age of Trump, the facts have to matter for SOMETHING?
What this sort of thing can do his promote trust or at least tolerance of individuals prepared to talk in this way. That's not necessarily a bad thing, someone who puts in the effort to use diplomatic language, is more likely to be someone who considers their words and actions more carefully, so this could be a useful and actually relevant social signal.
(This is what Rumsfeld meant by contrasting himself with the "reality based community"; humans are really a subjectivity-based community unless they put a lot of effort into detaching.)
This reminds me of some of the points that Nassim Taleb makes in his books "Skin in the Game" and "Fooled by Randomness". In "Skin in the Game" warns against scientists studying humans in controlled environments and how its not relevant to how humans behave when they have skin in the game. Sort of like, you reveal to me your believes by what stocks you buy or what actions you take. And in "Fooled by Randomness" he talks about how we make out patterns of out randomness.
How can this research be done, then? Since the two sentences mean entirely different things, obviously people will react differently to them - they are not interchangeable, they have specific and different meanings!
"I support the division..."
"I support dividing..."
mean entirely different things. The first one is passive and indicates that the speaker/author is outside of the decision to divide\ and possible outside of the area itself.
The second one is active and implies that the speaker is going to be involved in the dividing activity itself.
Obviously the words will get different reactions from people because they mean different things. Without additional tests to query what the population understood the sentence to mean, along with how they feel about it, would make sense.
But as it is, this is like finding out that people react differently to "let's use fire" vs "lets use a blanket". They are totally different things.
I think a lot of it is implicit and context based. And maybe it's even based on personal interpretation, but even in your examples, I see those two sentences meaning the same thing.
If I'm at a birthday party and there's one piece of cake left but three people still hungry, I could say "I support the division of the piece of cake" or "I support dividing the piece of cake" even if the person celebrating the birthday is the ultimate authority on whether we will divide the cake. I'd convey the same idea, just with slightly different words, and likely different intonation, too.