Document Type




Format of Original

18 p.

Publication Date



Nova Science Publishers

Source Publication

Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada, and Mexico

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Past research indicates that voters have begun to rely less on party affiliations and more on candidates' images and positions on issues in making voting decisions. Through using the mass media, voters can learn about issues and candidates, and form images of the candidates.

Our study concerns the effects of mass mediated election news, and of political advertising, on voters' choice of candidates. In particular, we examined the roles of media agenda-setting and priming, and of negative political advertising, in the development of voter’s evaluations of candidates. An important trend in agenda-setting research is to look beyond issue saliences as dependent variables to determine what relationships issue saliences have with other phenomena, such as public opinion and voting choice. Research into "priming" indicates that the issues and other aspects of political life (e.g., a candidate's character) that become salient in an election are used by voters to evaluate candidates for public office, and therefore indirectly affect voting behavior.

An analysis of a sample survey of eligible voters in the 1990 race for Wisconsin governor found that attention to news accounts of the election is associated with higher levels of salience given some issues in that election. In line with the "priming" model, issue salience had some, although modest, relationship to evaluation of the candidates. Political commercials, including negative ads, appeared to affect candidate evaluations more directly, while news media appeared to work through issue salience to affect evaluations of candidates. Some evidence was found of a ''boomerang" effect of negative advertising in this campaign.

Identification with political parties had only a small direct relationship to voting intention. Instead, this identification appears to work along with the direct and indirect effects of communication variables to influence candidate evaluation, which then appears to affect voting choice.


Accepted version. Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1993): 101-119. © 1993 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Used with permission.

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