Need for Orientation and Third-Person Effects of the Televised Debates in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Ran Wei, Ven-hwei LO, Yicheng Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The televised debates in the 2016 presidential election took place between two controversial candidates, Hillary Clinton and her opponent, Donald Trump, who faced a deeply divided electorate of highly opinioned voters that had already decided on their supported candidates. How did viewing the debates influence them? Would the debates reinforce their existing opinion, or provide them with useful information about the candidates? Drawing on Davison’s third-person effect hypothesis, this study aims to shed light on the question of how viewing the debates influences voters relative to others in the era of social media. The study focuses on the need for orientation as a predictor of debate exposure and the behavioral consequences of debate exposure for electoral engagement on social media. Findings show that partisans are not impacted by viewing the debates, but respondents perceived Independents to be most vulnerable. Further, need for orientation moderated the relationship between debate exposure and perceived effects of the debates on self, which prompted respondents to mobilize support for the candidate of their choice and to vote for their supported candidates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-583
Number of pages19
JournalMass Communication and Society
Volume22
Issue number5
Early online date22 Apr 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

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