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The Third Person Effect and Social Identity: Young Voters' Perceptions of Media Influence in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Campaign Cynthia Hoffner and Raiza Rehkoff Department of Communication Georgia State University USA. The Third Person Effect.

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The Third Person Effect and Social Identity:Young Voters' Perceptions of Media Influencein the 2004 U.S. Presidential CampaignCynthia Hoffnerand Raiza RehkoffDepartment of CommunicationGeorgia State UniversityUSA

the third person effect
The Third Person Effect
  • Perceptual component (Third person perceptions; TPPs)
    • The comparison other – the “third person”
      • Social distance/Group membership
      • Assumptions/beliefs about the “other”
    • Type of media/Type of perceived effect
      • Negative vs. positive content
      • Social desirability of presumed effects
  • Behavioral component
    • Censorship
    • Other behavioral consequences rarely examined
      • e.g., earthquake preparations, mobility, voting intentions
social identity theory self categorization theory e g tajfel turner 1979 turner 1999
Social Identity Theory/Self-Categorization Theory(e.g., Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, 1999)
  • Self-concept is linked to group memberships
  • People accentuate:
    • Similarity to in-group members
    • Differences with out-group members
  • This is enhanced when:
    • Social identity is salient
    • Social identification with the group is strong
  • Several researchers have used SIT/SCT to examine the Third Person Perception in political elections
    • Notably Duck, Hogg, and Terry (e.g., 1995, 1999)
    • This study builds on their work
the context of the current study the 2004 u s presidential election
George W. Bush – Republican


John Kerry -- Democrat

This paper focuses on the role of

political identity in the perceived

influenceof several forms

of political media on oneself and

other groups, and the behavioral


The Context of the Current Study:The 2004 U.S. Presidential Election
specifically we examined
Specifically, we examined:
  • The role of social identity in TPPs
    • Party affiliation
      • perceived effects on in-group vs. out-group (as well as on “average voters”)
    • Strength of political identity (high vs. low)
  • The role of type of media
    • Forms of media that differ in presumed accuracy/bias:
      • Debates, news, “spin,” polls, comedians, candidates’ ads
  • The role of TPPs in behavioral outcomes
    • Censorship
    • Voting efficacy & voting intentions

SIT/SCT and the Third Person Perceptions

  • In general, politically affiliated people should perceive larger TPPs for the out-group than the in-group
    • Enhanced for media more biased toward the “other” side
    • Reduced or reversed for media congruent with own group
  • These patterns should be stronger for those who identify more strongly with their political party
additional predictions for tpps
Additional Predictions for TPPs
  • For comparison others without a specified political affiliation (“average voters”):
    • May be seen as more likely to be influenced by political media than partisan voters
    • Hence largest TPPs for this group
  • In general, larger TPPs for media with less desirable effects
    • “Spin,” polls, comedians, campaign ads (as compared to debates & news)
predictions for behavioral outcomes
Predictions for Behavioral Outcomes
  • Censorship support and TPPs
    • Based on prior research and SIT/SCT, censorship support should be positively predicted by TPPs for the “average voter” and the out-group
  • Voting intentions/efficacy and TPPs
    • Only a few prior studies, evidence inconsistent
    • TPPs could:
      • Induce a sense of powerlessness and reduce voting intentions
      • Motivate people to vote in order to protect society/enact change

The original sample: N = 316; Limited to young adults (18-29), registered to vote, and self-identified as Republican or Democrat

  • Final sample: N = 187
    • Mean age: 20 years
    • 53% Female
    • 59% White, 27% African American
    • 54% Democrats
  • Self-administered questionnaires
    • Within one week prior to the election (Oct 27 to Nov 1)
    • They also completed a post-test within one week after the election (data not yet analyzed)

** All ratings made on scales of 0 to 4

  • Third Person Perceptions
    • Rated perceived effects of 7 forms of media on voting decisions of:
      • Self, average voters, republicans, democrats
        • Ratings for rep & dem recoded as in-group & out-group based on respondents’ political party
      • TPP: Effect on other minus effect on self
    • The seven types of media

* Presidential debates * Comedians

* Campaign news * Bush ads

* The “spin” * Kerry ads

* Political polls

  • Political party affiliation: Republican or Democrat
  • Strength of political identity
    • 10 items measured identification with political party (alpha = .91)
  • Perceived election knowledge: Two items (alpha = .82)
  • News exposure
    • TV news, print news
  • Censorship support
    • Support for government regulation of 5 types of political media

(alpha = .95)

  • Voting variables:
    • Perceived efficacy of voting (4 items ; alpha = .83)
    • Likelihood of voting
results mean third person perceptions for 7 sources
ResultsMean Third Person Perceptions for 7 Sources

In general, larger TPPs for media typically seen as having

more bias/less desirable effects (comedians is the exception):

Media Three TPPs

Source Combined

  • Debates .31 a
  • News .61 ab
  • “Spin” .99 c
  • Polls 1.02 c
  • Comedians .51 ab
  • Bush ads .76 bc
  • Kerry ads .77 bc
results third person perceptions and group identity
ResultsThird Person Perceptions and Group Identity

Major Conclusions:

  • TPPs larger for “average voters” than for partisans, but only for Democrats
    • Exception: Bush ads
  • TPPs larger for out-group than in-group, but mainly for Republicans
    • For Democrats, there were larger TPPs for in-group for debates and comedians
  • For candidate’s ads:
    • Larger TPPs for in-group for own candidate’s ads
    • Larger TPPs for out-group for the other candidate’s ads
  • No effects for political identification (high, low)
results mean tpps for 7 sources 3 comparison groups
ResultsMean TPPs for 7 Sources & 3 Comparison Groups

Average In-group Out-group

Voters Voters Voters

  • Presidential Debates
    • Republicans.54 b .25 b .40 b
    • Democrats .37 b.41 b -.10 a
  • Campaign

News Coverage

    • Republicans .92 c .35 a.71 bc
    • Democrats .86 c.47 ab.38 ab
  • The “Spin”
    • Republicans1.35 c .30 a1.27 bc
    • Democrats 1.29 c.82 b.93 b
  • Political Polls
    • Republicans 1.23 c.72 a1.14 bc
    • Democrats 1.26 c.89 ab.87 ab
  • Comedians
    • Republicans .92 c .27 ab.92 c
    • Democrats .66 bc.58 b -.15 a
  • Bush Ads
    • Republicans .47 b1.02 c -.35 a
    • Democrats 1.24 c.52 b1.44 c
  • Kerry Ads
    • Republicans 1.20 bc .13 a1.58 c
    • Democrats .85 b.88 b -.03 a
results predicting behavioral outcomes
ResultsPredicting Behavioral Outcomes

Results for TPPs:

  • Higher censorship support = greater TPP for out-group, but not “average voters”
  • Voting efficacy not related to TPPs
  • Lower voting likelihood = greater TPP for “average voters” (p < .08)

Other findings:

  • Higher political identity = greater efficacy, more likely to vote
  • Republicans: higher voting efficacy
  • Democrats: more likely to vote
results regression analyses predicting behavioral outcomes
ResultsRegression Analyses Predicting Behavioral Outcomes

Censorship Voting Voting

Support Efficacy Likelihood

1. Gender Pos (Female) --- Pos (Female)

Ethnicity Neg (White) --- ---

2. Political party --- Pos (Rep) Neg (Dem)

Political identity --- PosPos

3. TV news --- --- ---

Print news Neg --- [Pos]

4. Perceived


knowledge Neg --- Pos

5. Third person


Average --- --- [Neg]

In-group --- --- ---

Out-group Pos --- ---

summary and interpretations
Summary and Interpretations
  • Findings confirm importance of social identity in the perceived influence of the media
    • Results generally consistent with SIT/SCT and prior research
    • Different patterns for the various forms of media (and for the two parties) extends prior research
      • TPPs appeared to be affected by perceptions of others’ political beliefs, as well as evaluations of various media types
  • Findings also show that social identity plays a role in the association between TPPs and censorship support
    • Little evidence that TPPs played a role in election outcomes
  • In future analyses we will consider:
    • Perceptions of media bias
    • Own political ideology vs. perceived ideology of other groups
    • Data obtained in a post-test within a week after the election