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Communicative activities in response to the presumed influence of campaign commercials

Henn, P., Dohle, M., & Bernhard, U.
ECREA, 5th European Communication Conference
Lissabon: 2014, November

People tend to presume that media have a strong influence on other people. According to the influence of presumed media influence approach, this perception can have consequences on people’s attitudes and behavior (Gunther & Storey, 2003). One proven consequence of perceived media influences are so-called corrective actions (Rojas, 2010). This means that people who believe the media to have a strong political influence on their fellow citizens start or increase communicative action in order to counter the presumed media effects, especially when media content is viewed as negative.This has been tested here using two specific media stimuli. It is hypothesized:
H1: The stronger the political influence of media content on others is perceived to be, the more likely people are to react by actively communicating themselves.
H2: The more negative the political influence of media content on others is thought to be, the more likely people are to react by actively communicating themselves.
In order to test these hypotheses a standardized online survey was conducted in Germany (n = 214). Participants were to watch two videos: 1. a campaign commercial by the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, German Social Democratic Party), Germany’s second largest political party, usually perceived as moderately left-wing; 2. a campaign commercial by the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD, German National Democratic Party), an extremely right-wing party that is not part of the German parliament. The participants were told that the videos for the election were available on YouTube. They were asked to indicate how strong and how positive/negative they believed those videos’ influence on recipients to be (independent variables), and whether they would post their own views in a comment on this YouTube video (dependent variable). Control variables were also measured.
The results confirm H1: A connection between the perceived strength of the media influence and intended communicative activities in reaction to this was found in the cases of both videos: the stronger the perceived media effect, the more likely people were to react.
H2, on the other hand, could not be proven: The evaluation of the perceived influence on others did not have any influence on the intended communication activities in reaction to this.
However, in the case of the SPD video, an interaction effect was revealed (strength of influence * evaluation of influence): The stronger and the more positive the commercial’s influence was perceived to be, the more likely the respondents were to comment on the video.
The findings are inconsistent with the corrective actions hypothesis, since influences that are not thought to be negative should not require any corrections. Rather, it is possible that people who perceive media to have a strong influence on the public use the comments sections in online media like YouTube to communicate their own political views because they want to reinforce the message of the initial offering and hope to convince others that way. This is probably particularly pronounced in online media because there is a very low threshold for communication activities.

Zitation (APA)

Henn, P., Dohle, M., & Bernhard, U. (2014, November). Communicative activities in response to the presumed influence of campaign commercials. ECREA, 5th European Communication Conference, Lissabon