The influence of presumed political media influences on political communication activities

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

The influence of presumed media influence approach postulates that the perception of strong media effects on others affects individual attitudes and behaviors (Gunther & Storey, 2003). For example, if individuals perceive strong and disagreeable political media influences on others they increase political participation in order to oppose these influences (“corrective actions”; Rojas, 2010). This is of particular importance as online media offer low-threshold options for participation. However, there are hardly any studies on corrective actions that examine the perceived influence of online media and consider online as well as offline communication behavior as consequences. The present study addresses these aspects within the context of the parliamentary election in a German federal state in 2012.
It is assumed that the stronger and the more negative the media influence on the public is perceived to be, the more people spread their own political opinions via online media (H1a) and via forms of offline communication (H1b).
In previous studies, presumed media influences are measured generally. However, it appears plausible to differentiate between different dimensions of influence. Thus, it was assumed that in the context of an election corrective communicative efforts depend mainly on the perceived influence on people’s voting decision and only indirectly on the perceived influences on the agenda of topics, the candidates’ image, and the formation of opinions (H2).
To test these assumptions, a standardized online survey was conducted among the population of the federal state (n = 485). The perceived influence of television, newspapers and the Internet was captured separately for four different dimensions:
* influence on which topics were deemed important,
* influence on the image of candidates,
* influence on the formation of opinions,
* influence on the voting decision.
Additionally, the evaluation of the influence was measured. As dependent variables several political online and offline activities were measured and summarized to create an index for online and offline participation. Also control variables were considered.
Results concerning H1a/H1b show: The stronger the respondents perceived the Internet’s political influence on the public to be, the more frequently they spread their own opinions via online and offline channels. However, neither the evaluation of the perceived influence alone nor the interaction term from the strength and the evaluation of the perceived influence did affect people’s communication. In this sense, it is not suitable to consider the communicative activities as ‘corrective actions’: It is not plausible that individuals make efforts to counteract perceived media effects that they don’t believe to be negative. Instead, the respondents could much rather simply desire to spread their own views. Based on this, they might use media for this purpose, which they believe to have a strong political influence and thus to be effective. Thus, presumed strong influences simply lead people to underline their own political opinions in terms of ‘confirmative actions’.
Moreover, detailed analyzes support H2: Only the presumed effects on the general public’s voting decision had a direct influence on communication activities, whereas the other dimensions had not. Yet those did have an indirect impact on people’s communication behavior.

Zitation (APA)

Bernhard, U., Dohle, M., & Vowe, G. (2014, November). The influence of presumed political media influences on political communication activities. ECREA, 5th European Communication Conference, Lissabon