T.V. Channel Changing: Choice, Attention, and Reception in Political Communication Research
30 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2008
Experimental political communication research focuses on understanding media effects given reception. Theoretically, persuasion is a function of the probability an individual receives a given communication and their probability of yielding to what is received. We investigate the implications of choice - agency - for the effects of televised political information. We conduct a pilot investigation, revisiting the new Videomalaise hypothesis (Mutz and Reeves 2005), which asserts televised incivility reduces trust in officials. Our experimental design allows subjects in one treatment group to change the channel, giving them the option to watch rancorous political debate or something else. The availability of alternatives to political information mutes its effects via at least two mechanisms - Individuals who choose to watch political television programs have higher levels of experience with politics and thus more stable political orientations, while people who choose not to watch do not see the stimulus in question. We also find media effects that are stable across the choice and forced-exposure treatments. Our study is of particular significance for understanding the generalizablity of experimental political communication research.
JEL Classification: C90
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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By Cindy D. Kam