The affective citizen communication model : how emotions engage citizens with politics through media and discussion
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This dissertation seeks to improve our understanding of the process by which emotions enable citizens to learn about public affairs and engage in political activities during electoral campaigns. It advances a theoretical model that incorporates the dynamics of emotions, various forms of media use, interpersonal communication and political involvement. This affective citizen communication model integrates into a single framework the insights of affective intelligence theory (Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000) and the work on communication mediation (McLeod et al., 1999, 2001) and its two iterations, cognitive mediation (Eveland, 2001) and citizen communication mediation (Cho et al., 2009; Shah et al., 2005, 2007). More specifically, it suggests that the effects of emotions triggered by political candidates (e.g., enthusiasm, anxiety, anger) on knowledge of the candidates’ stands on issues and on political participation are largely mediated by communication variables, including news media use, political discussion and debate viewing. By positing emotions as an antecedent of both mediated and interpersonal communication, the study extends current research based on affective intelligence theory. At the same time, the study adds emotions to communication mediation processes, which to date have been studied from a mostly cognitive perspective. To test the relationships between the variables identified in the affective citizen communication model, I rely on panel survey data collected for the 2008 and 2004 U.S. presidential elections by the American National Election Studies (ANES) and the National Annenberg Election Surveys (NAES), respectively. Two types of structural equation models are tested, cross sectional (to relate individual differences) and auto-regressive (to relate aggregate change across waves). Results suggest that positive emotions spark media use, whereas negative emotions spark political discussions, and both types of communication behavior influence issue knowledge and participation in campaign activities. Furthermore, the theorized structure is found to perform better than an alternative structure where communication variables cause positive and negative emotions. Thus, results provide strong support for the proposed affective citizen communication model. Refinements to the proposed model, connections with existing theories of political communication, such as agenda setting and partisan selective exposure, and directions for future research are also discussed.
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