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Agenda setting and political partisanship in an election campaign: Reinforcing and undermining partisan voting intentions
Unformatted Document Text:  6 inconsistent with partisans’ stereotypes about their party and its strengths. Individuals are active processors of mass media messages and may determine to a large degree the magnitude of agenda setting effects that they display based on their backgrounds, attitudes and actions (Wanta, 1997). The moderating effect of partisanship may thus be manifested as an active resistance to a perceived agenda, although it is possible that partisan influences also occur at a more unconscious or automatic level (see priming research by Iyengar & Kinder, 1987). In summary, agenda-setting research has typically focused on establishing the public importance of issues presented in the media. Although some research has sought to examine individual differences in media exposure and agenda-setting, comparatively few researchers have considered the potentially important social and psychological influences such as partisanship that may operate to limit agenda-setting effects, for instance within an election context. Although there is experimental research for the moderating role of partisanship (Iyengar & Kinder, 1987), the aim of this study was to provide a social psychological account of agenda setting within a dynamic field context, an election campaign. Specifically, we sought to examine how partisanship interacted with issues on the agenda to influence inferences about people’s electoral beliefs and behavior and, most importantly, voters’ own electoral beliefs and behavior. We sought to demonstrate that there was a common perceived agenda that favored one side of politics, and that was differentially embraced according to political partisanship. We also sought to demonstrate that the agenda influenced people’s predictions about and interpretation of the election outcome and enhanced partisan biases among those whose party “owned” the issue. Most important, we sought to demonstrate that the agenda was consequential at the personal level, not only for neutral voters but also for political partisans, reinforcing partisan intentions for one side, but undermining partisan intentions for the other. In this way, we sought to demonstrate the more subtle and individual-level effects of agenda-setting. This two-wave study was conducted during the 2001 Australian federal election, with voters being surveyed two weeks prior to the election and two weeks after the election result had been announced. In Australia voting is compulsory for Australian citizens 18 years or over and the political sphere is dominated by two major factions, the Liberal-National Coalition and the Australian Labor Party. Other political parties (e.g., the Greens and the Australian Democrats) have a lower profile. The Liberal-National Coalition is an ideologically conservative (center- right) party, and stands on a platform of economic reform (e.g., taxation, industrial relations,

Authors: Duck, Julie., Morton, Thomas. and Fortey, Kate.
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inconsistent with partisans’ stereotypes about their party and its strengths. Individuals are active
processors of mass media messages and may determine to a large degree the magnitude of
agenda setting effects that they display based on their backgrounds, attitudes and actions
(Wanta, 1997). The moderating effect of partisanship may thus be manifested as an active
resistance to a perceived agenda, although it is possible that partisan influences also occur at a
more unconscious or automatic level (see priming research by Iyengar & Kinder, 1987).
In summary, agenda-setting research has typically focused on establishing the public
importance of issues presented in the media. Although some research has sought to examine
individual differences in media exposure and agenda-setting, comparatively few researchers
have considered the potentially important social and psychological influences such as
partisanship that may operate to limit agenda-setting effects, for instance within an election
context. Although there is experimental research for the moderating role of partisanship (Iyengar
& Kinder, 1987), the aim of this study was to provide a social psychological account of agenda
setting within a dynamic field context, an election campaign. Specifically, we sought to examine
how partisanship interacted with issues on the agenda to influence inferences about people’s
electoral beliefs and behavior and, most importantly, voters’ own electoral beliefs and behavior.
We sought to demonstrate that there was a common perceived agenda that favored one side of
politics, and that was differentially embraced according to political partisanship. We also sought
to demonstrate that the agenda influenced people’s predictions about and interpretation of the
election outcome and enhanced partisan biases among those whose party “owned” the issue.
Most important, we sought to demonstrate that the agenda was consequential at the personal
level, not only for neutral voters but also for political partisans, reinforcing partisan intentions
for one side, but undermining partisan intentions for the other. In this way, we sought to
demonstrate the more subtle and individual-level effects of agenda-setting.
This two-wave study was conducted during the 2001 Australian federal election, with
voters being surveyed two weeks prior to the election and two weeks after the election result had
been announced. In Australia voting is compulsory for Australian citizens 18 years or over and
the political sphere is dominated by two major factions, the Liberal-National Coalition and the
Australian Labor Party. Other political parties (e.g., the Greens and the Australian Democrats)
have a lower profile. The Liberal-National Coalition is an ideologically conservative (center-
right) party, and stands on a platform of economic reform (e.g., taxation, industrial relations,


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