The effects of emotional and rational news appeals on political attitudes

Article English OPEN
Ryffel, Fabian A (2016)
  • Publisher: Nomos
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.5167/uzh-127456
  • Subject: Department of Communication and Media Research | 700 Arts

The present study investigates how emotional and rational appeals in political news media stories interact with preexisting attitudes in changing citizens’ political attitudes. It is hypothesized that news media appeals that match predispositions are more likely to affect attitudes than mismatching media appeals. That is, people holding attitudes primarily based on affect should be more susceptible to emotionally arousing media content than to rational appeals. For people holding attitudes primarily based on cognition, rational appeals in news media are expected to be more persuasive than emotional appeals. These assumptions were tested in a real-world setting in the run-up of a popular vote on immigration. In order to test the hypotheses, the data of a three-wave panel survey were matched with data from a content analysis of the news coverage on the issue. Results indicate the expected matching effects: Voters whose attitudes are primarily based on affect were more likely to change their attitude when confronted with emotional appeals as compared to rational appeals. In contrast, voters holding cognitively based attitudes were more likely to change their attitude when they received rational appeals as compared to emotional appeals.
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