Vertical and horizontal political knowledge gaps in the contemporary media environment: the case of the 2010 health care reform legislation.

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Vertical and horizontal political knowledge gaps in the contemporary media environment: the case of the 2010 health care reform legislation.

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2011-10

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This dissertation investigates how media consumption patterns in the contemporary media environment may influence a person’s political knowledge. Drawing on previous research in political psychology and media effects, I argue that a knowledge gap phenomenon (Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970) still exist today. However, with an empowered audience base, individuals’ differing motivation to engage with certain media content may become a more powerful antecedent of knowledge. In line with this reasoning, I proposed a vertical and horizontal knowledge gap framework. The dissertation presents the results of two complementary studies that test the existence and the antecedents of these two knowledge gaps against the backdrop of the 2010 health care reform legislation. Building on previous studies of media framing, Study 1 tracked the news coverage of the health care reform legislation from 10 online media outlets from February 22 to March 24, 2010. A total of 1,268 news stories were analyzed using qualitative content analysis software. Results of this study not only revealed a set of media frames associated with the issue of health care reform, they also illustrate that different media outlets produced different media frames according to their ideological leaning as well as the offline characteristics of the particular online media outlet.Informed by the opportunity-motivation-ability framework of political learning (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996), Study 2 was a survey study designed to examine the relationship between an individual’s motivation and ability to learn about politics, media consumption patterns, and political knowledge – particularly, knowledge about the health care reform legislation. Data for this study were collected from a national online panel that consisted of 333 respondents. The results showed a mixture of support for specific research hypothesis that I proposed, but they broadly illustrated the theoretical idea that in the contemporary media environment, a person’s motivation to learn about politics, rather than ability to process political information, is a more powerful predictor for the resulting political knowledge.

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University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2011. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Marco C. Yzer. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 221 pages, appendix A.

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Wang, Kevin Ying-Kai. (2011). Vertical and horizontal political knowledge gaps in the contemporary media environment: the case of the 2010 health care reform legislation.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/118027.

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