This study investigates political communication as a mediator of the socializing effects of major political events. We earlier found that presidential campaigns are occasions for increased crystallization of partisan attitudes among adolescents (Sears and Valentino, 1997). But what drives the socialization process during the campaign? Either the campaign saturates the media environment with political information, socializing all adolescents roughly equally, or greater individual exposure to political information is necessary for significant socialization gains during the campaign. The analyses utilize a three-wave panel study of preadults and their parents during and after the 1980 presidential campaign. Here we find that adolescents exposed to higher levels of political communication experience the largest socialization gains, that the socializing effects of political communication are limited to the campaign season, and that communication boosts socialization only in attitude domains most relevant to the campaign. We conclude that both a high salience event at the aggregate level and high individual levels of communication about the event are necessary to maximize socialization gains.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 7, 2004
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