Explicating the central role of news media use in the process of political participation : toward establishing an integrative structural model of news media effects on political participation
In order to fully explicate the role of news media in individuals’ political participation, this dissertation aims at establishing an integrative structural model that specifies relationships among news media use, its antecedents and mediators of its influence on political participation. The proposed model is comprised of key factors of political participation that previous research has identified. The relational structure is based on models and theories relevant to prediction of political behaviors. Specifically, the model integrates (a) communication mediation model, which posits that communication behaviors (i.e., news media use and interpersonal discussion) mediate the effects of socio-demographic variables (i.e., income, education, age, gender, and race) and political dispositions (i.e., political interest, partisanship and ideology) on political outcomes; (b) agenda-setting theory, which posits that frequent exposure to news media increases the salience of news objects in audiences’ minds; (c) cognitive mediation model, which posits that elaborative and collective thinking is a prerequisite to produce political outcomes of news exposure; (d) theory of planned behavior, which posits that human behavior can be best predicted by three proximal variables (i.e., attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control); (e) O-S-R-O-R (orientations-stimulus-reasoning-orientations-response) model of communication effects, which provides a parsimonious framework of effect process. Using the structural equation modeling (SEM) method, this dissertation analyzes the 2008 American National Election Studies data set to test the validity of the proposed structural model. Results indicate that frequent exposure to news media stimulates attentive news use as well as intra- and interpersonal reasoning, which produce a wide range of political outcomes. Two reasoning behaviors (i.e., self-reflection and interpersonal political discussion) are critical mechanisms that linked news media use to various political outcomes including political participation. Personal-psychological mediators, such as strength in affects, personal traits, opinions about political issues, campaign interest, political knowledge, attitude strength, perceived ability of political parties and political efficacy all significantly mediate the influence of news media use on political participation. News media use mediates significant portion of effects that a set of preexisting variables have on political participation as well as various types of political orientations.