Research and Insights

CJC at AEJMC Conference 2015

August, 2015
San Francisco

Clay Calvert

Professor and Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication, Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project

Areas of specialty or research interest: Communications Law, First Amendment, Media Law, Privacy

Paper: Difficulties and Dilemmas Regarding Defamatory Meaning in Ethnic Micro-Communities: Accusations of Communism, Then and Now (Top Faculty Paper in the Law & Policy Division)

Research Goals: Examines the complicated issues of community and defamatory meaning that arise in libel law when plaintiffs allege reputational harm within ethnic and geographically-bound micro-communities.

Summary of findings

The paper uses three recent cases involving false accusations of communism targeting Vietnamese war refugees residing in the United States as analytical springboards for tackling this issue.  Although some scholars seemingly presumed libel-by-communism to be a relic of the Cold War era, the issue is very much alive and well in ethnic enclaves.  The paper also contrasts the public policy concerns of libel-by-communism cases with the ones that animate the defamation-by-homosexuality disputes that are garnering significantly more scholarly attention.

Paper: Begging the Question of Content-Based Confusion: Examining Problems With a Key First Amendment Doctrine Through the Lens of Anti-Begging Statutes

Research Goals: Examines numerous problems now plaguing the fundamental dichotomy in First Amendment jurisprudence between content-based and content-neutral speech regulations.

Summary of findings

Building from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 divided decision in McCullen v. Coakley, this paper uses a quartet of federal court rulings from 2014 and 2013 involving anti-begging ordinances affecting the homeless as analytical springboards for examining the issue in depth.  Ultimately, the paper proposes a three-step framework for mitigating the muddle and calls on the nation’s high court to take action to clarify the proper test for distinguishing between content-based and content-neutral regulations.

Sylvia Chan-Olmsted

Professor, Telecommunication Department

Areas of specialty or research interest: development and marketing of mobile media content, cross-platform media strategy and audience behavior, mobile apps usage, and branding via social/mobile media, especially in the context of young adult consumers.

Paper: Marketing Theatrical Films for the Mobile Platform: The Roles of Web Content/Social Media, Brand Extension, WOM, and Windowing Strategies. (Co-authors: S. Nam and B. Chang) (Second-place faculty research paper from the Media Management and Economics division)

Research Goals: understand consumer demand/behavior of mobile media/content; develop conceptual and strategic implications in media management.

Summary of findings

This study empirically explored the effects of various marketing factors on the distribution of theatrical films on mobile platforms as a new film exhibition window. Research questions related to four categories of mobile marketing activities, web content/social media, brand extension, eWOM, and windowing strategies, were examined. The results showed that brand extension was most effective in producing better mobile performance, while social media and eWOM in the form of peer reviews were not specifically associated with a film’s mobile platform performance. As far as time gap (i.e., holdback period) in a windowing process and pricing are concerned, neither windowing strategies appeared to affect mobile film performance, while both significantly contributing to better theatrical film performance.

This study reveals that it might be more effective for film marketers to conduct different marketing activities for different windowing scenarios. When there are simultaneous releases, most likely for higher profile movies, marketers can focus on both brand extension and pricing strategies. However, when a sequential release is practiced, theatrical releases might benefit more from social media buzz on platforms like Facebook and brand equity leveraged from stars/directors, while the mobile releases could get a boost from well-planned web content activities. In sum, our results point to the differential impact of various marketing activities for different movie platforms.

Yu-Hao Lee

Assistant Professor

Areas of specialty or research interest: Media psychology, Digital games, Motivation, Persuasion, Online collaboration

Paper: Online Collective Action as Group Identity Performance: Extending the Strategic Side of SIDE (Authors Yu-Hao Lee and Robert Wells)

Research Goals:

We examine “slacktivism” as a group identity performance to one’s in-group and towards an out-group. Visibility of action and the relative strength of the groups influence whether people will continue to perform the group action or slack off after performing the initial online action.

Summary of findings

Low-cost online collective action facilitated by social media has been both praised as empowering to groups with less power to mobilize, but also criticized as “feel-good” slacktivism that has no actual impact. Based on the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE), we examined online collective action as a group identity performance to one’s in-group and towards the target out-group. A 2 (visibility) x 2 (out-group strength) experiment was conducted to investigate when people will strategically partake in an initial online action and a subsequent action. The findings indicated that group identity predicted participating in online collective action. While the actual cost of performing the initial action was low. Visibility and out-group strength communicated different symbolic weight and affected people’s efforts in a subsequent action. The findings has theoretical implication by expanding the strategic side of SIDE. The study also has practical implications for organizations or campaigns that seek to take advantage of social media platforms.

Jon D. Morris


Areas of specialty or research interest: Affect or Emotional Response and in particular how it applies to marketing communications

Paper: Empowerment: The Overlooked Dimension of Emotional Response  (Co-author: Jing (Taylor) Wen, Ph.D student)

Summary of findings

Emotional responses toward advertising have substantial effects on consumers’ attitudinal evaluation and behavioral intentions. In this study, these responses were evaluated  in three distinctive dimensions, Appeal, Engagement, and Empowerment that was reported by respondents. Previous research either failed to find the independent effect of Empowerment or only focused on the other two dimensions. This study manipulated the level of Empowerment (high vs. low) and controlled for Appeal and Engagement to examine the effects of Empowerment on behavioral intentions. Results showed that subjects perceived a significantly higher level Empowerment when exposed to anger appeals verses to fear appeals. Further, high Empowerment triggers stronger behavioral intentions to approach the issues in question, than low Empowerment.

Findings of this study also have some practical implications. Firstly, fear and anger are most frequently used emotion in the PSAs (Bagozzi and Moore 1994). The results of this study indicates that people are more likely to perform the recommended behavior when they feel high in Empowerment (i.e., more control). Therefore, when designing PSA messages, professionals should try to increase the Empowerment to lead people to feel that they have more control over the situation. In that case, people might be more willing to behave the way they need to behave. Secondly, Empowerment could be an important factor in helping with mental disorder. Especially for people who usually feel less secure, increasing Empowerment could play a big role in making them feel more comfortable toward the messages.

Finally, we plan to seek funding this year to expand our fMRI work to exam the measurement of Empowerment in the brain.  This would lead to a better understanding of the more complex high vs low empowerment, compared to the simple analysis of fear vs. anger.

Cynthia Morton

Associate Professor

Areas of specialty or research interest: Social marketing strategy and message development, health communication, the effects of message source and content, advertising and promotions of health and issue strategies

Paper: College Students’ Beverage Consumption Behaviors and the Path to Obesity (Co-author: Naa Amponsah Dodoo)

Research Goals: The purpose of this research is to provide a closer examination of college students’ knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors insofar as they relate to the influence of beverage consumption on weight management and obesity avoidance.  Survey research was administered to investigate the research questions. The sample of N=1001 of male and female college students, aged 18 to 24.

Summary of findings

Four dimensions were associated with beverage consumption behavior on obesity risk: 1) beliefs about the influence of beverage consumption on health and weight management 2) perceptions about what the reference group of other college students believe or find acceptable; 3) one’s perceived competency to make knowledgeable decisions about health and fitness; and 4) the vigilance one applies to this endeavor. The research found that respondents’ knowledge about maintaining health and fitness was above-average and that they seemed more astute about weight management strategies. College students tend to be confident in their knowledge about what is needed to maintain a healthy weight and therefore less concerned, even dismissive, about issues associated with weight gain or obesity risk.

The dimension most predictive of beverage consumption behavior in college students is beliefs about the effects of beverage consumption on health and weight. This finding presents an opportunity for health communicators to identify message directions that speak to the college student segment in terms important to them. Anti-obesity communication campaigns that focus not just on calories in general, but on specific short-term actions that could be used to replace common reactions to everyday stressors with positive weight management alternatives are likely to yield the most effective results to this population in the long term.

Kim Walsh-Childers

Professor of Journalism

Areas of specialty or research interest: My research and interests focus on journalism ethics and on mass media health content and its impacts on individual health behavior and health policy. In particular, I focus on health journalism, although I’ve also done work on the impact of media portrayals of sex on adolescents’ sexual health behavior.

Paper: The porn effect (?): Links between college men’s exposure to sexually explicit online materials and risky sexual health behaviors & attitudes. (First author: Ashley McLain, whose thesis research was the basis for this paper.)

Research Goals: This study investigated whether college men’s viewing of sexually explicit online photos and videos was associated with their self-reported engagement in sexual risk behaviors, including unprotected sex (not using condoms), use of alcohol or drugs prior to or during sex, etc. In addition, we investigated whether attitudes toward pornography and use of online pornography was associated with negative attitudes toward condom use and with likelihood of communicating with sex partners about their sexual history.

Summary of findings

Perhaps the most dramatic result of the study was that, among this sample of college-age men, self-reported use of sexually explicit online materials was extremely high, with more than 70% reporting that they watched sexually explicit videos at least once every week. More than 90% had viewed sex videos online at least once in the preceding six months. On the other hand, their self-reports of involvement in sexual risk behavior was low; this may reflect a social desirability effect, in that most college men know that they should avoid these sexual risk behaviors.

Frequent exposure to online pornography was significantly related to a lower likelihood of condom use, but only among men who listed their race as “other” – not white, black or Hispanic. Use of online pornography also was significantly and positively related to engaging in sexual risk behaviors, but not to communication with one’s sexual partners. Not surprisingly, holding pro-pornography attitudes, such as believing that one can learn new sexual techniques from pornography, was positively related to more frequent exposure to these materials. In keeping with the study’s hypotheses, these pro-porn attitudes also were significantly related to holding negative attitudes toward condom use and greater likelihood of engaging in sexually risky behavior.

Wayne Wanta and Mariam Alkazemi

University of Florida Research Foundation Professor (Wanta) and Adjunct Lecturer (Alkazemi)

Research Interests (Wanta): Agenda setting, international communication, visual communication, sports communication, political communication

Research Interests (Alkazemi): international media, media and religion, Middle East media, political communication

Paper: Framing Oil on the Media Agenda: A Model of Agenda Building- Newspaper and Online News Division

Research goals: Examining Congress’ ability to set the press; examining agenda-building with regards to the issue of oil

Summary of findings

A path analysis tested an agenda-building model in which three real-world indicators would lead to discussions of oil in Congress and media coverage of oil. The three indicators include: price crude oil, U.S. oil production and U.S. oil consumption. The model showed the level of U.S. oil production produced the strongest path coefficients. Congress and the media formed a reciprocal relationship. The model worked better when oil was framed as an economic issue than as an environmental issue.

Paper: The Promise to the Arab World: Attribute Agenda Setting and Diversity of Attributes about U.S. President Obama in Arabic-Language Tweets (Co-authors: Shahira Fahmy and Ahmad Farghali from the University of Arizona)

Research goals: Understand social media use among Arab media and public; develop conceptual model examining diversity of attributes in the second-level agenda setting process

Summary of findings

The study showed that Twitter messages differed greatly from tweets depending on the source. The members of the public discussed the U.S. president more negatively and linked him to a greater range of countries than members of media organizations. The location of the source of the tweets showed a wide range, though dominated by the Middle East. Finally, the majority of the Twitter messages were posted from Egypt. Evidence supported the conceptual model which suggests that objects in the media can be associated with a diversity of attributes.

Paper: The global media job market: A comparison of requirements in job listings for six broadcast news organizations (Paper to be presented in the session for the Internship and Careers Interest Group’s top five papers)

Research goals: Understanding differences among six major global broadcasters

Summary of findings

Job listings were randomly selected from CNN, CNN International, Al-Jazeera, Al-Jazeera America, BBC and BBC America to understand how their hiring practices may differ. Out of 120 randomly selected job noticed, only seven did not mention technological skills, thus supporting a trend of media convergences and the importance of a college degree. However, Al-Jazeera America differed from other organizations most often by mentioning ethics. Compared to the other organizations, Al-Jazeera America and Al-Jazeera were more likely to mention a sound news judgment as a requirement for their jobs.

Lauren Bayliss

Ph.D. Student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Public Relations, Food Communication, Corporate Social Responsibility

Paper: We’re Just Good People: Corporate Sustainability Communications and Human Values

Research Goals: To determine whether ethical companies emphasize the same values in their corporate social responsibility website content as they emphasize in their more general company information.  To determine whether emphasis on universalist, altruistic values is linked to future time orientation in corporate communications.

Summary of findings

The websites of thirteen companies praised for their ethical practices were judged in terms of characteristics of human individuals: implicit human values and time orientation.  Content analysis of corporate websites determined that half of the organizations described themselves using significantly different values on their general-information and sustainability-specific webpages, and several others were trending in that direction.  Furthermore, although it was expected that universalist values (such as environmental protection and social justice) would be tied to future time orientation, companies’ references to the future were not significantly associated with universalist value statements.  The inconsistent references to values by companies, coupled with a lack of future focus for universalist value statements, suggests that these companies may appear a bit disingenuous if judged as human individuals are judged.

Kéran Billaud

Ph.D. student.

Areas of specialty or research interest: Mass Communication Law and Policy, New Media Law in the Internet Era, Access To Information, Online Reputation, the Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF), and ISP/Website Operator Rights

Paper: Access to Information About Lethal Injections: A First Amendment Theory Perspective on Creating a New Constitutional Right (2nd author along with Emma Morehart and Kevin Bruckenstein)

Research Goals: This paper’s goals are to examine the current judicial debate regarding access rights of inmates and the public to detailed facts about lethal injection drugs, personnel and procedures, and to support the establishment of both an inmate’s and the public’s right to such information.

Summary of findings

This paper examines, through the lens of First Amendment theory, the current judicial debate regarding access rights of inmates and the public to detailed facts about lethal injection drugs, personnel and procedures. The paper uses several 2014 appellate court disputes as analytical springboards, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s groundbreaking decision in Wood v. Ryan. The paper argues that the First Amendment doctrine developed in Press-Enterprise II too narrowly cabins and confines access rights in some lethal-injection data cases. In contrast, three venerable theories of free expression – the marketplace of ideas, democratic self-governance and self-realization/human dignity – support the establishment of both an inmate’s and the public’s right to such information.

Ginger Blackstone

Ph.D. Student

Areas of specialty or research interest  The future direction of journalism (particularly with regards to electronic media and video-based news programming), Millennials’ news engagement, misinformation/fear framing in news.


  • Guilt by Disassociation: Millennials’ Opinions Regarding News Consumption and the Prevalence of ‘Should (Top paper for GSIG division)
  • Picture a Protest: Analyzing Images Tweeted from Ferguson (3rd author along with Holly Cowart (1st author) and Lynsey Saunders (2nd author))
  • Invited panel participant in Coverage of the Charleston church shooting and other related events in mainstream, social and alternative media — Research Insights for the MAC division

Research Goals: To better understand audience engagement with news in the new media environment, the role of more opinion-driven or exaggerated/inflammatory news, and what future successful news operations might look like.

Summary of findings 

(GSIG paper) The purpose of the study was to investigate news avoidance behaviors of upwardly mobile Millennial undergraduates.  The study builds on the results of a Pew Research study that indicated that, unlike the generations before them, younger generations are not engaging with news content as they increase in age.  Focus group participants were more interested in non-news content, but there were occasions when news did catch their attention.  The most powerful indicator was whether the news content impacted their lives directly or the lives of those they cared about.  Fantastic, outrageous, or oddity news also grabbed their attention.  Several participants said their first source for news was social media, particularly Twitter, but they liked clicking on online articles and having the option of reading as much or as little information as they liked (and they strongly disliked “auto-play” video on websites).  Participants believed they “should” consume news and “ought” to engage more often, but they frequently lacked the initiative or interest.  Some expressed that the appearance of being informed was valued among their peers, but that did not necessarily translate into actual knowledge of current events.  Others deliberately avoided news because of information overload, time demands, or negative content.  Some participants saw themselves consuming more news as they matured, which challenged the Pew findings.  Others questioned the Pew methodology, suggesting that “time spent” engaged with various news sources was not necessarily an accurate measurement of information consumed in the modern multi-media environment.

Jung Won Chun

Ph.D. student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Online strategic communication, Effects of emerging media in creating interaction/relationship building between organizations and publics, motivation in social activism/civic engagement via interactive media

Paper: Effects of content type in a company’s Social Networking Site on users’ willingness to subscribe the page and Word-of-Mouth intentions: Based on Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Co-author: Dr. Moon J. Lee)

Research Goals: Understand the role of emerging media in various areas in Public Relations (e.g., Organization-public relationship building, crisis management, etc.), explore the motivations that leads to individuals’ online behavior for public engagement

Summary of findings

This study explored the effects of content type (utilitarian vs. hedonic) in SNSs on situational involvement with a company’s Facebook page and intentions to subscribe and promote the Facebook page depending on enduring involvement with a company. By using 2 (content type: utilitarian vs. hedonic) × 2 (interactivity: low vs. high) × 2 (enduring involvement: low vs. high) experimental design with 171 participants, the current study found that the effect of utilitarian content is greater than hedonic content for highly involved people, as expected. Hedonic content increased individuals’ situational involvement with a company’s Facebook page more than utilitarian content among low-involved people. Both situational and enduring involvements influenced intention to subscribe to and continuously promote the company’s Facebook page.

Holly Cowart

Ph.D. student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Ppresentation of news through social media, screen-based story layout and design, visual framing and agenda setting.

Paper: Picture a Protest: Analyzing Images Tweeted from Ferguson (Co-authors: Holly S. Cowart, Ginger E. Blackstone, and Lynsey M. Saunders)

Research Goals: Exploring how people consume news content using mobile platforms and how that will shape the future of news media.

Summary of findings

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri created a media storm that coalesced around a series of events. This research examines nine major media outlets’ depiction of those events on Twitter using visual framing analysis. Findings suggest that mainstream media images of Ferguson were of divided forces working against each other. On one side stood white police. On the other, black protestors. The two sides rarely existed in the same image. A key difference in how people appeared according to race was interaction. Whereas the pictures primarily of white people showed physical separation, the pictures that appeared to primarily contain black people included hugging, touching, and people in close proximity to each other.

Naa Amponsah Dodoo

Ph.D. Student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Social media branding, brand management, consumer psychology, consumer behavior, brand-consumer relationship, social media use, social marketing

Paper: Icy Challenges: Consumer Perceptions of Brands’ Social Activism in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Research Goals: This study sought to examine consumers’ awareness of brands’ involvement in the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as well as responses to brands/companies involvement in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Summary of findings

This study therefore examined consumers’ awareness of brands’ involvement in the challenge as well as responses to brands/companies involvement in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Consumers’ brand identification, self-congruity and intent to share information about the brand were also examined. Results indicated favorable attitude towards brands’ involvement in the challenge. Multiple regression analyses conducted revealed the predictive ability of brand attitude, brand identity as well as brand awareness on the intent to share information about brands/companies involvement in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Paper: College Students’ Beverage Consumption Behaviors and the Path to Obesity. (Co-author: Cynthia Morton)

Research Goals: The purpose of this research is to examine college students’ knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors insofar as they relate to the influence of beverage consumption on weight management and obesity avoidance.

 Summary of findings

Findings of this study suggest that college students possess high awareness of healthy weight management, which appears to make them less concerned about issues of weight gain or obesity risk. In addition, knowledge about the effects of beverages was found to be the most predictive factor of beverage consumption, signifying the need to address knowledge about the effects of beverages particularly among college students. The findings and implications for health communication practitioners present an opportunity to identify message directions that speak to the college student segment in terms important to them.


Lauren D. Furey

Ph.D. student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Media literacy and effects, specifically how journalists, news content and features, like interactivity and platform, affect audience attitudes, opinions and comprehension of news

Paper: An issue divided: How business and national news differ in Affordable Care Act coverage (Authors Lauren D. Furey and Andrea E. Hall)

Paper: Mum’s the word: An analysis of frames used on parents who left children in cars (Authors Andrea E. Hall and Lauren D. Furey)

Paper: Outpouring of success: How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge engaged Millennials’ narcissism toward digital activism (Authors Andrea E. Hall and Lauren D. Furey)

Research Goals: 

  1. To understand how business news covers the Affordable Care Act in comparison to national news and the potential implications of that coverage
  2. To understand how mothers and fathers who have left children in hot cars are framed in comparison to each other in news coverage
  3. To understand the ultimate drivers of Millennials’ participation in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as well as determine whether it was perceived/acted as “slacktivism” like many other social media campaigns

Summary of findings

  1. Results were consistent across all measure (attributes, frames, tone and stakeholder portrayal) used to examine business versus national news coverage of the ACA, showing that business news was highly critical of the ACA while national news took a more balanced approach by portraying both sides of the issue. These findings indicate, as agenda setting suggests, that business news could have a significant impact on audience understanding and opinions of the ACA. More specifically, it could cause them to perceive the ACA in an extremely negative way and ignore any potential benefits.
  2. This study found that women were more frequently referred to as mothers than men as fathers when looking at gender role portrayal in headlines and news stories. This result reveals that an inherent connection exists between women and motherhood, which is not to the same conscious level for men and fatherhood. Alternatively, however, the accusatory frame was used most often for both men and women in stories and headlines. This may be a direct result of the topic studied. This stories often reported on the death of children, who are seen as innocent victims. Thus, this topic may be less forgiving toward parents, so gender is not affects as much as other topics.
  3. Results in this study revealed a strong correlation between social media use and narcissism, and their primary motive for participating was because celebrities and athletes were doing it, supporting social comparison theory. Results also revealed that participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was perceived as activism, which suggests it behaved as a bridge between traditional and digital activism.

This research indicated that if other campaigns want to tap into the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’s success, they need to get people participating both on and off the Web. Placing future campaigns online will allow companies to engage Millennials’ desire for social comparison and high amounts of social media use in order to gain a large number of participants and a lot of visibility on numerous platforms. But having an offline component as well might encourage Millennials to become greater activists as well as change their perceptions of digital activism from as slacktivism.

Nicki Karimipour

Ph.D. student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Health communication topics; female body image and social media use

Paper: Searching for Thinspiration: A Qualitative Content Analysis of Tumblr Blog Posts about Weight Loss and Disordered Eating

Research Goals: This study utilized a qualitative, inductive approach to examine tone of Tumblr blog posts about weight loss and body image. Commonly appearing codes, motivations for engaging in weight loss, use of hashtags, and mentions of eating disorder recovery and/or recovery resources were analyzed.

Summary of findings

The purpose of this study was to examine how thinspiration messages manifest in Tumblr posts, explore the tone of posts, uncover codes found in the blog posts, outline motivations for weight loss, investigate use of hashtags, and assess the prevalence of recovery as it is discussed in the posts. Results indicated that the majority (62.1%) of Tumblr bloggers discuss thinspiration as a desirable corporeal aspiration, and the most commonly appearing codes in the blog posts were: eating disorder specific, food, advice, deprecation, social comparison, self­-harm, fitness/exercise, fashion, male attraction, and humor. In most of the Tumblr posts analyzed in this study, thinspiration is heavily connected with eating disorders, which shows that to this subset of bloggers, thinspiration is not necessarily a healthy weight loss tool, or motivational tool for engaging in exercise. In addition, bloggers disclose intimate details about comorbid psychological issues such as depression, suicidal ideation and desire for self­-harm. This finding may be of interest to psychologists and clinicians because a sizable population of individuals with eating disorders dies by suicide every year, and suicide is a leading cause of death among anorexics. Bloggers seeking and discussing thinspiration on Tumblr use the site as a way to disclose intimate details about themselves using personal narratives. They used their Tumblr blog to make sense of their own experiences, emotions and struggles with weight loss and in some cases, a diagnosed mental illness such as an eating disorder. For these bloggers, the site was used as an online space to express struggles and frustrations with body dissatisfaction, weight loss, and specific experiences with food and exercise on a day­-to-­day basis.

Tiffany Schweickart

Ph.D. Student

Areas of specialty or research interest: Political public relations, strategic messaging, political communication

Paper: Time-lagged Analysis of Third-level Agenda-building: Florida’s Debate on Medical Marijuana  (Third Place Paper in the Open Competition of the Public Relations Division) (Co-authors: Jordan Neil (Ph.D. Student, University of Florida); Ji Young Kim (Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii); Josephine Lukito (Doctoral Student, University of Wisconsin); Tianduo Zhang (Ph.D. Student, University of Florida); Guy Golan (Professor, Syracuse University); Spiro Kiousis (Professor, University of Florida)

Research Goals: The purpose of this research is to advance the theoretical and practical understanding of political public relations in the context of Florida’s Amendment 2 about the legalization of medical marijuana. By examining the efficacy of public relations information subsidies and their relationship with news media, it is possible to gain a nuanced and practical outlook into the effectiveness of specific public relations materials in building an agenda on a referendum. Furthermore, by employing a temporal understanding to the saliency of these elements through a time-lagged analysis, the authors hope to present a thorough investigation into a very timely, contentious, and critically important, socio-political issue.

Summary of findings

To advance our theoretical and practical understanding of political public relations, this study examined three levels of agenda-building between proponent and opponent campaign public relations messages and news media content of Florida’s Amendment 2. The results present strong support for shared influence between campaign and media agenda-building at all three levels. In other words, the transfer of salience for objects (first-level), object attributes (second-level), and co-occurrence of objects and attributes (third-level) demonstrated shared influence between public relations material and news content. The results of the current study also provide nuanced insight into the interplay between individual subsidy types and news content. In addition to subsidy types, this study also examined the aggregate data for proponent and opponent issue campaigns of the amendment which further demonstrated a shared or reciprocal agenda-building influence with news media. Furthermore, these results contribute to our temporal understanding of salience by using a time-lagged analysis to begin making causal interpretations instead of simply inferring correlations.

Rich Shumate

Ph.D. student

Areas of specialty or research interest: AEJMC Law and Policy Division

Paper: The Government Speech Doctrine & Specialty License Plates: A First Amendment Theory Perspective on Walker vs. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (Co-authors: Sarah Papadelias, J.D./M.A. student, and Tershone Phllips, M.A. student)

Summary of findings

This paper explores the case of Walker vs. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in which a SCV chapter in Texas sued over the state’s refusal to approve its application for a specialty license plate emblazoned with the group’s logo that includes the Confederate battle emblem. The SCV argued that the state’s action amounted to viewpoint discrimination, which is not allowed under the First Amendment. The state argued that specialty license plates are government speech, which is not protected by the First Amendment, and that it could refuse to issue a plate that many Texans would find offense.

Because government speech doctrine is relatively new and somewhat confused, this paper argues that U.S. Supreme Court should look to three seminal First Amendment theories – marketplace of ideas, democratic self-governance and self-realization/human autonomy – in order to provide more cogent direction for how, and under what circumstances, this doctrine should be applied. The paper further argues that these three theories all weigh in favor of in favor of the SCV’s position, even though the high court sided with Texas in a 5-to-4 ruling in June.

Jing Wen (Taylor)

Ph.D. Student.

Areas of specialty or research interest: Mood and emotions, consumer psychology, persuasion in health and marketing communication, and information processing of advertising stimuli.

Paper: Communicating ALS to the Public: The Message Effectiveness of Social-Media-Based Health Campaign. (Co-author: Linwan Wu.)

Research Goals: This study examined how celebrity-issue matchup presented in utilitarian and hedonic appeals influences evaluation of video, issue attitude and behavioral intentions in the context of ALS communication.

Summary of findings

First, the findings showed that celebrity-issue matchup has significant main effect on issue attitude and behavioral intentions (i.e., seek and share ALS-related information, and donate to ALS Foundation). In addition, matchup condition is superior to non-matchup condition across level of issue involvement. Second, the findings showed that utilitarian appeal interacted with celebrity-issue matchup to influence sharing intention. The results indicated that utilitarian appeal with matchup condition triggered significantly greater information sharing intention than the utilitarian appeal with non-matchup condition. Furthermore, no difference was found in hedonic appeal with matchup and non-matchup condition.

This study highlights the overarching effect of matchup condition. It overshadows the potential influences that message frame may have on the participants. The findings of this study suggest that the factual knowledge (i.e., utilitarian appeal) could exert as strong influence as the emotional scenes (i.e., hedonic appeal) on attitudinal and behavioral responses. This is probably more convincing at the later stage of a viral campaign, the time when this study was carried out. It is possible that participants might have already learned about the issue/disease from media and people around them. In this way, either hedonic or utilitarian appeal would be persuasive to them, especially for severe disease like ALS.

The only interaction between message frame and celebrity-issue matchup is on information sharing intention. According to previous research on viral campaign, social ties are considered as an antecedent of sharing messages on the Internet. More importantly, the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign was successful on social media, where social ties play a prominent role. As such, people are more inclined to forward ALS-related information over other behaviors, like information seeking or donation. Further, the interaction effect demonstrates that people are most likely to share utilitarian and matchup message with friends and families. It seems that a case might be made for a strong linkage between the matchup celebrity endorser and source credibility, which leads people to more inclined to disseminate the factual knowledge presented by a credible endorser to others. However, this is not necessarily the case for hedonic appeal in a charity donation campaign, as people would be pleased to see more celebrities to help although most of the celebrities have no direct connections with the disease. This explains why celebrities’ participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge rapidly increases the public’s awareness and donation to ALS.

Paper: Empowerment: The Overlooked Dimension of Emotional Response. (Co-author: Dr. Jon Morris.)

Research Goals: The three bipolar dimensions encompass the full spectrum of human emotion, labeled as Appeal, Engagement and Empowerment. This study is designed to examine for specific differences on Empowerment on stimuli that might be used in communications, such as advertising.

Summary of findings

First, the findings showed that anger and fear appeals are able to trigger different levels of Empowerment. Specifically, subjects in this study, perceived greater control when they were exposed to an anger appeal, and less control when exposed to a fear appeal. These findings are consistent with previous studies on the linkage between Empowerment, and specific emotions. In this case the AdSAM® Manikin was used to measure the dimensions of emotion.
Second, the findings showed that Empowerment could be a predictor for behavioral intentions in some situations. People show different behavioral intentions when they are exposed to stimuli with different levels of Empowerment. That is, anger (i.e., high Empowerment) triggers stronger behavioral intentions as people are motivated to approach the issue and actively look for solutions to solve the problem, whereas fear (i.e., low Empowerment) trigger less behavioral intentions since people tend to avoid the uncertain and unsafe situation.