Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Communication

First Advisor

Emily E. Falk

Abstract

A reciprocal relationship purportedly exists between political efficacy, one’s belief in their ability to effectively participate in democratic activities, and news sharing, such that greater political efficacy may lead to greater news sharing, which might then cultivate or reinforce political efficacy. In this dissertation, we deployed short interventions using online surveys to test whether manipulating political efficacy influences news sharing intentions, and whether manipulating news sharing behavior influences individual political efficacy. We also explore the relationship between news sharing and collective political efficacy, or the perceived belief in the abilities of American citizens to effectively organize for political action. Further, political humor and satire currently occupies a significant media space as an accessible and shareable format of political news information. We deepen our analysis by testing the influence of political humor on the causal relationships between political efficacy and news sharing. In this dissertation, we present findings from three online survey experimental studies. In Study 1 (N=517), building on the idea that political efficacy can be developed by successful personal experiences of political participation, we examined the effect of civic values-based affirmation, Civic Affirmation on increasing political efficacy. In Study 2 (N=397), we tested the intended manipulation of political efficacy via Civic affirmation, on news sharing. Here, we also manipulated humor by sourcing news videos from both traditional news and news comedy programming. Lastly, in Study 3 (N=459), we tested the effect of news sharing and humor on political efficacy. Here, we manipulated news sharing by asking participants to select videos from lists of news videos to share with other participants. Results show that Civic Affirmation led to greater collective political efficacy and news sharing intentions as compared to traditional values-based affirmation, and that sharing news with others did not lead to greater political efficacy. Further, individuals who were not assigned any treatment showed greater collective political efficacy than those who were assigned affirmation tasks, news video sharing or description tasks. These findings suggest further investigation in the role of collective political efficacy on political engagement, and revisiting the role of short psychological interventions in developing civic attitudes and behaviors.

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