Localism in the political communication of the United States

Szikszay, Gábor (2021) Localism in the political communication of the United States. MA/MSc thesis, BCE Kommunikáció és Szociológia Intézet, Kommunikáció- és Médiatudomány Tanszék.

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The purpose of this essay is to assess how congressional candidates approach the question of localism, how they express their connection to the local community. Some research shows that as polarization is on the rise, so is nationalization, the phenomenon of local politics becoming increasingly aligned with what occurs on a national level. This might assume that candidates would more often use partisan cues than before, hoping that emphasizing their party and ideological affiliation might push them across the finish line. To form a conclusion about the validity of this hypothesis, I analyzed candidate websites with the purpose of better understanding how they use their local ties and emphasis on locally relevant issues in order to persuade their constituents. The study’s theoretical cornerstone was a widely analyzed and mostly accepted concept called the issue ownership theory. This theory (popularized by Petrocik, 1996) claims that voters are aware of which party handles an issue better (or as the study puts it, “owns” the issue), therefore the candidates’ goal is not to persuade constituents about their abilities to solve them, rather, it is to shape the agenda, with the purpose of convincing voters that the most important issue is the one that they are better suited to handle. These ownerships usually take place on a national level, which means that if we see that all topics are only addressed by a single party’s candidates, it means high levels of nationalization, since in that case, candidates are only focusing on issues that their national parties are considered competent about, not necessarily what their local community considers the most important issue. My analysis consisted of two parts: one focused on how communication of localism changed, and another about whether communication about issues can act as an indicator of nationalization. The former one was a re-do of a previous study by Druckman et al., while the latter was an entirely new analysis. Ultimately, the Druckman study’s re-do led to mixed results: the trends seemingly imply no change in the level of nationalization, but the results show that it’s because candidates learned to use statements about their local roots as means of persuasion. The second part of the analysis focused on what issues are present in candidate programs. This also underscored that nationalization is not as ubiquitous based on the programs as it’s expected. Many candidates discuss issues that their party does not “own”, meaning that voters expect the other party to do a better job about it than they do.

Item Type:MA/MSc thesis
Subjects:Media and communication
Political science
ID Code:14768
Specialisation:Communication and Media Science
Deposited On:08 Sep 2022 11:13
Last Modified:08 Sep 2022 11:13

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