Media Messages in American Presidential Elections

Media Messages in American Presidential Elections

Media Messages in American Presidential Elections

Media Messages in American Presidential Elections

Synopsis

Focusing on the audience, Owen investigates the way people process media messages during campaigns. She examines the role of ads, news stories, poll results, and debates in presidential campaigns. Based on surveys fielded during the 1984 and 1988 Presidential campaigns, Owen compares these four message categories to determine their relative importance to voters. She also investigates how people make use of messages when establishing their perceptions of candidates and issues. This book is designed for researchers and students in communications and mass media, voting behavior, and public opinion.

Excerpt

The study of the effects of mass communication on elections and voting behavior has passed through distinct phases, each characterized by different theoretical perspectives and research agendas. Early "hypodermic effects" or "bullet theories" gave way to the "limited effects" tradition that emerged from the voting studies of the 1940s. More recently, scholars have reevaluated the role of the mass media in elections. While not returning directly to a full effects perspective, they assert that the media can produce important consequences in the realm of electoral politics. the emergent analytic frameworks demonstrate a greater understanding of the often subtle nature of communication effects and the need to focus on the processes underlying them (see Schramm, 1974; DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach, 1982; McQuail and Windahl, 1981; Lowery and DeFleur, 1988).

The most recent period in political communication research is notable for its attempts to revive the field, which had come to a standstill as a result of the often rigid research perspectives adopted in earlier eras. Yet the challenge of devising adequate theoretical frameworks for studying media effects in elections persists. As early researchers discovered, mass media effects are difficult to isolate. Scholars must take into account a vast array of factors in order to untangle the nature of mass' communication and its influence. They must also consider certain contingent conditions under which media effects are likely to occur, including situational, cultural, and historical elements that are frequently difficult to define (O'Keefe and Atwood, 1981; Blumler and Gurevitch, 1980; Hochheimer, 1984).

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