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Date of Award

2005

Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Jon F. Schamber

First Committee Member

Qingwen Dong

Second Committee Member

Marlin Bates

Abstract

This study sought to determine if the use of negative and aggressive reporting descriptors of female political candidates by the media influences the perception of candidate credibility and voter support. Other researchers have found that female politicians are more likely than male politicians to be subjected to negative and aggressive reporting descriptors during political campaigns by the news media. Two hypotheses were addressed in the study. Hypothesis one predicted that negative and aggressive reporting descriptors of female politicians would result in lower perceptions of candidate credibility in terms of competence and character as compared to neutral descriptors of female politicians. Hypothesis two predicted that negative and aggressive reporting descriptors of female politicians would result in reduced voter support as compared to neutral reporting descriptors of female politicians. An experimental design was employed to test the hypotheses. One experimental group was exposed to a five minute radio news program with negative and aggressive reporting descriptors of a female political candidate while the second experimental group was exposed to the same news reports with neutral reporting descriptors. Both hypotheses were tested utilizing a two-tailed t-test. Results showed a statistically significant difference between the two groups on the perception of candidate credibility in terms of competence. The data would indicate that negative and aggressive reporting descriptors have a detrimental effect on female politicians in terms of perceptions of expertise. The data did not show a statistically significant difference between the two groups in terms of candidate support. The results show that female politicians, who are already less likely to have access to political experience, are further hindered in terms of perceptions of competence by the negative and aggressive reporting descriptors used by the media.

Pages

47

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