Date of Award

Spring 1993

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Scotton, James

Second Advisor

Reedy, George E.

Third Advisor

Leonard, Richard H.

Abstract

The idea for this study first arose during January of 1992. It can be traced to my desire to examine how the mass media can influence and shape the behavior and attitudes of an audience. Originally I had researched and designed a thesis study which focused on the relationship between television depictions of teenage suicide and actual suicidal attitudes among viewers of those depictions. Unfortunately, this suicide study rapidly grew into something which could better be accomplished with an NIH grant and several full-time research assistants. Lacking such amenities, I opted for a more straightforward (and realistically completable) research study. With 1992 being a year of major elections at all levels, I decided to focus on the mass media and how they influence and shape the political process in the United States. An examination of the literature to date regarding politics and the media yielded the specific idea for my study. I decided to replicate previous thematic analyses of campaign coverage, with a slight twist. Those previous research studies had examined national elections (mainly presidential). My study applied the same research model to an election at the county level. It is my hope that this study will encourage further examination of how media influence attitudes about local elections. The results of my study indicate that some interesting differences may exist between media coverage of national campaigns and media coverage of local campaigns. Possible differences in Page iii media influence on voter attitudes regarding those different campaigns may exist as well. As with any successful research study, further research is both indicated and necessary.

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