Date of Award

Summer 1998

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Griffin, Robert

Second Advisor

Thorn, William

Third Advisor

Frederick, Edward

Abstract

This study examines the role that issue salience can play in adapting the heuristic-systematic processing model (Eagly and Chaiken, 1993) to political communication. It surveyed 288 undergraduates about issues in an upcoming gubernatorial election that was eight months away. Issue salience was positively related to perceived knowledge, desired knowledge, and "sufficiency gap," which expresses a sense of needing to know more than one does in order to meet a processing goal. Salience for some issues also was positively related with more in-depth "active systematic" information processing, although the opposite was true for the abortion issue. Sufficiency gap was expected to related positively to systematic processing; instead, it related negatively with avoidance of information and with passive heuristic processing. It may well be that it was too early in the election during this survey for sufficiency gap to motivate systematic processing. Salience of the election as a whole (the issue environment) was strongly and positively related to systematic processing, as were (to a lesser extent) number of salient issues and strength of party affiliation; the latter finding ran contrary to expectations. Salience of issue environment also was a strong predictor of voting intention.

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