According to many theoretical accounts of the vote choice, distal determinants (e.g., party identification) influence proximal determinants (e.g., perceptions of candidates), which in turn shape candidate preferences. Yet almost no research on voting has formally tested such mediational hypotheses. Using national survey data collected between February and September of 2004, this paper begins by illustrating how to conduct such investigations. We explored whether public approval of President Bush’s handling of a series of specific national problems (e.g., the Iraq war) influenced overall assessments of his job performance and evaluations of his likely future performance versus John Kerry’s, which in turn shaped vote choices. The results are consistent with the claim of mediation and shed additional light on the impact of various issues on the 2004 election outcome. We also tested what we term the “dosage hypothesis,” derived from news media priming theory, which posits that changes in the amount of media coverage of an issue during the course of a campaign should precipitate changes in the weight citizens place on that issue when evaluating the president’s overall job performance, particularly among citizens most exposed to the news. Surprisingly, this analysis did not yield consistent support for the venerable dosage hypothesis, suggesting that the conditions under which priming occurs should be specified much more precisely in future work.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 21, 2007
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