I am & #34;I & #34;

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022272/00001

Material Information

Title: I am & #34;I & #34; Independent Identity and the Effects of Framing
Physical Description: 1 online resource (60 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008


Subjects / Keywords: framing, independent
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The purpose of this study was to learn more about Independent candidates and citizens. The study had three specific aims: to learn more about the nature of Independent identity; to study the connection between ideology and Independence; and to measure the effect of framing on attitudes towards Independent candidates. The study used an experimental design and brief survey, distributed to college students, to meet these goals. The experiment presented students with one of three mock news articles, each of which presented three candidates for Congress. The articles varied in their descriptions of the Independent candidate, who was framed either as valuing his own political autonomy or as disliking the two major parties. After reading the article, participants completed a survey on their attitudes towards the candidates and basic demographic information. Results of the study suggest that Independence is a multi-dimensional concept; frames of the Independent candidate that echoed separate dimensions of Independence produced distinct effects in the sample population. Thoughts on future research, especially regarding Independents, are presented.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Cleary, Johanna.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022272:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022272/00001

Material Information

Title: I am & #34;I & #34; Independent Identity and the Effects of Framing
Physical Description: 1 online resource (60 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008


Subjects / Keywords: framing, independent
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The purpose of this study was to learn more about Independent candidates and citizens. The study had three specific aims: to learn more about the nature of Independent identity; to study the connection between ideology and Independence; and to measure the effect of framing on attitudes towards Independent candidates. The study used an experimental design and brief survey, distributed to college students, to meet these goals. The experiment presented students with one of three mock news articles, each of which presented three candidates for Congress. The articles varied in their descriptions of the Independent candidate, who was framed either as valuing his own political autonomy or as disliking the two major parties. After reading the article, participants completed a survey on their attitudes towards the candidates and basic demographic information. Results of the study suggest that Independence is a multi-dimensional concept; frames of the Independent candidate that echoed separate dimensions of Independence produced distinct effects in the sample population. Thoughts on future research, especially regarding Independents, are presented.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Cleary, Johanna.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022272:00001

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2008 Jeffrey Andrew Hannan 2


TABLE OF CONTENTS page LIST OF TABLES ...........................................................................................................................5 ABSTRACT .....................................................................................................................................6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ ....7 The Rise of the Independent .....................................................................................................7 Studying the Independent .........................................................................................................8 2 LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................................................11 Explaining the Rise in th e Number of Independents ..............................................................11 The Psychology of Independence ...........................................................................................13 The Multidimensionality of Independence ......................................................................14 The Impact of Independence on Political Behavior ........................................................15 Why Do People Choose Independence? ..........................................................................16 Ideology and Independence .............................................................................................18 College Students and Independents ........................................................................................20 Second-Level Agenda Setting and Framing ...........................................................................21 3 Methodology ................................................................................................................. ..........26 Research Questions .................................................................................................................26 Framing Independent Candidacies ..................................................................................26 Methods and Survey Instrument ......................................................................................27 Coding and the Handling of Data ...........................................................................................30 4 FINDINGS .................................................................................................................... ..........31 Frequencies and Sample Characteristics ................................................................................31 Question 1: Do Independent Students Respond to Specific Frames of Independent Candidates that Echo the Dimensions of Independence Outlined Above? .........................32 Question 2: Does Ideological Confusion or Neutrality Result in Independent Identification? .....................................................................................................................33 Question 3: Do Different Frames of Independent Candidates Produce Different Responses from Students Generally? ..................................................................................33 5 DISCUSSION .................................................................................................................. .......39 Independent Voters .................................................................................................................39 Ideology and Independence ....................................................................................................41 Independent Candidates ..........................................................................................................42 3


Regarding College Students ...................................................................................................43 Theoretical Implications .........................................................................................................44 6 CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................. .....46 Potential Applications .............................................................................................................47 Limitations and Suggesti ons for Future Research ..................................................................48 APPENDIX A NEUTRAL GROUP MO CK ARTICLE TEXT .................................................................51 B AUTONOMY GROUP MOCK ARTICLE TEXT .............................................................52 C PARTY ANTIPATHY GR OUP MOCK ARTICLE TEXT ...............................................53 D SURVEY INSTRUMENT......................................................................................................54 LIST OF REFERENCES ...............................................................................................................56 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .........................................................................................................60 4


LIST OF TABLES Table Page 4-1 Distribution of respondent s into experimental groups .......................................................36 4-2 Distribution of respondents by gender ...............................................................................36 4-3 Distribution of respondents by race ...................................................................................36 4-4 Distribution of respondents by religion .............................................................................36 4-5 Distribution of respondents by partisan affiliation ............................................................36 4-6 Vote totals for each candidate by group ............................................................................37 4-7 Indicated candidate pref erences by Independent students .................................................37 4-8 Mean ideology scores between groups ..............................................................................37 4-9 Distribution of ideology across partisan identification ......................................................37 4-10 Mean scores for attitudes towards Independent candidate ................................................38 5


6 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Mast er of Arts in Mass Communication I AM I: INDEPENDEN T IDENTITY AND THE EFFECTS OF FRAMING By Jeffrey Andrew Hannan May 2008 Chair: Johanna Cleary Major: Mass Communication The purpose of this study was to learn more about Independent candidates and citizens. The study had three specific aims: to learn more about the nature of Independent identity; to study the connection between ideolo gy and Independence; and to m easure the effect of framing on attitudes towards Independent candidates. Th e study used an experime ntal design and brief survey, distributed to college students, to meet these goals. The experiment presented students with one of three mock news articles, each of which presented three candidates for Congress. The arti cles varied in their descriptions of the Independent candidate, who was framed either as valuing his own political autonomy or as disliking the two major parties. After reading the article, participants completed a survey on their attitudes towards the candidates and basic demographic information. The results of the study suggest that Independe nce is a multi-dimensional concept; frames of the Independent candidate that echoed separate dimensions of Independence produced distinct effects in the sample population. Thoughts on future research, especially regarding Independents, are presented.


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The Rise of the Independent Over the latter half of the twentieth cent ury, the number of Americans who identified themselves as political Independents rose stead ily: from the 1950s to the 1980s, the number grew so high that Independents actually outnumbered Republicans for a time (Craig, 1985). This trend towards dealignment, or dissociation from political parties, was slightly reversed by the Reagan administration and accompanying Republican success, though the 1992 and 1996 elections demonstrated a persistent portion of the populat ion who still seemed to fall outside of the traditional partisan configurati on. In fact, more recent research confirms a widespread trend towards dealignment in Western societies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada (Clarke and Stewart, 1998) Individuals are increasingly distancing themselves from traditional partisan affiliations; even with the resurgence of part isanship in the last decade, approximately one third of the American population still identifies as Independent (Gallup finds increase in Independents, typical of off-years, 2007). Despite the obvious implications of dealignm ent for our democracy, many researchers in the past have treated Independent s as politically irrelevant. In The American Voter the Michigan researchers suggested that Independents are pr imarily those individuals who lack a positive attachment to one party or another (Campbe ll et al, 1960); because their study focused on partisanship, they spent little time expandi ng on this idea. They mention in passing that Independents may choose to identify as such because of a negative appraisal of existing parties, or perhaps because they place a high valu e on the idea of Independence itself. Some researchers have continued to disregard Independents: Keith et al (1986) have maintained that Independents, for the most part behave just as regular partisans do, sometimes 7


even more so. They vote along party lines, they are surprisingly loyal to pa rties that they lean towards, and they have high levels of general political involvement. Since most Independents behave like partisans, we should treat them as such. Nevertheless, Independents do depart from their partisan counterparts in several important be havioral respects: they are more likely to split their tickets on election day, and th ey also are more likely to ch ange the party that they lean towards from one election to the next (Greene, 2000). Studying the Independent Understanding these behaviors is important, but political communicators must also learn how to influence these behaviors. Whether strivi ng to bring Independents back into the partisan fold, or encouraging Independents to resist partisan affiliation, how the media or political campaigns communicate to this importan t population is vital for many reasons. First, as Stephen Craig (1985) has su ggested, understanding the varieties of nonpartisanship is necessary to understanding the phenomenon of dealignment. If dealignment truly is a concern, then reve rsing that trend involves reac hing out to Independents. Second, many Independents are highly politic ally involved (Dennis, 1988). The fact that certain types of Independents are more involved than certain types of partisans suggests that, however they choose to be involved, this popula tion plays an important role in our democracy. For those interested in involving Independent voters in efforts to combat or resist the two-party system, understanding how to motivate Independents is very important. Third, Independents represent a potential swing vote, a group of citizens who do not firmly identify with either major party. Indepe ndents represent a centr al battleground on which the two parties will most certainly be meeti ng each other in coming years, and understanding how they make political decisions will be central to the outcome of that struggle. 8


While it is clearly important to study Indepe ndents as a broad category, it is even more important to study college students who identify as Independent. First, college students, more so than the general population, tend to resist partis an affiliation (Abramowitz, 1983). Students are more flexible in their political affiliations, and often switch affiliations during college. Second, college students are more poli tically involved than their non-college peers (Bernstein, 2005). Finally, college students represent a significant portion of the future audience for political communication, and perhaps an even greater por tion of our future elected officials. Dealignment and disengagement from the part y system are serious concerns, and future solutions must be based on current research. How can political campaigns and the media, whatever their aims, effectively communicate to individuals who identify as Independent? Unfortunately, little effort has been made to an swer this question. Most research has focused on the different reasons that cause individuals to identify as Independe nt (See Dennis, 1988; Daalder, 1992; Greene, 2000); while this resear ch has been important and enlightening, it does not tell us much about how to practically co mmunicate to Independents. This study aims to understand how different messages regarding Independent candidates are received by college students, particularly Inde pendent college students. This study will follow an experimental design to test the effects of framing on voter support for Independent candidates. Participants will be exposed to newspaper articles on a fictional Congressional race; these articles will present a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent candidate. The Independent candidacy will be presented in different ways, designed to highlight various facets of Independence identified by previous literature. After exposure to these articles, participants will rate each candi date and indicate their willingness to support the Independent candidate specifically. 9


10 Chapter 2 will evaluate existing literature on both framing theory and the current understanding of Independent voters. Chapter 3 will lay out the methodology for the current study. Chapter 4 will present the findings of this study, Chapter 5 will discuss those findings, and Chapter 6 will offer concluding thoughts and suggestions for future research.


CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Explaining the Rise in the Number of Independents As The American Voter (Campbell et al, 1960) suggested, Independents may actually have a number of different justifications for thei r choice of nonpartisanship: a lack of positive attachment to the parties, a nega tive evaluation of the parties, or a high regard for the idea of Independence. But which of these reasons, if any, explained the rise in the number of Independents from the 1950s to the 1980s? Miller and Wattenburg (1983), writing in the American Journal of Political Science argued that Independents were not so much tu rned off by politics (a negative evaluation of parties) as they were tuning out from politics. They delineated between two types of citizens: Independents, who were politica lly involved and may lean towards one party or another, and those individuals who were nonpartisan and expressed no preference between the parties (nonpartisan no-preferences, or NP Ns). According to Miller and Wattenberg, Independents were largely dissatisfied with the parties performa nce, and NPNs were simply indifferent to the choices offered them by the parties. This hypothesis, that citizens were moving away from preferences and towards a more neutral evaluation of the parties, was termed th e neutrality hypothesis in later literature; Wattenberg (1984) expanded these ideas, suggesting th at parties were less and less relevant to American citizens interested in political involv ement. For a number of reasons, parties were no longer the primary vehicle of invol vement for many citizens; as a result of the partie s decline in saliency, more individuals chose to identify as Independent rather than cling to the vestigial party system. 11


But the American citizens attitude to wards the parties probably went beyond mere neutrality. There was also a sense of increa sed cynicism in the 1970s and 1980s, and this cynicism towards government often was redirect ed towards the parties (Craig, 1985). In his critique of Wattenbergs neutra lity hypothesis, Craig contended that a decrease in perceived saliency of the parties did not equate to neutral ity towards the parties. Rather, parties could grow less relevant to American politics while at the same time evoke negative responses and evaluations from American citizen s. If parties are no longer repr esentative of the public will, then the parties will be subject to increased criticism, while at the same time growing less salient to everyday politics. Craig (1985) also sugge sted that the major parties were growing indistinguishable from one another, and this also contributed to the public moving away from them. Dennis (1992) summarized this train of thought well, argui ng that the growth in the number of Independents was attributable to two fundamental f actors: indifference and hostility. These attitudes may be easy to understand for some, but others may ask specifically what turned so many citizens off to the major parties? Many factors could be cited, but Webb (2005) does an especially good job outlining the indictments against the parties: like many large institutions, they are often subject to corruption; they are sel f-interested, often to the point of seeming petty; and they are, in many cases, perceived to be incapable of effective governance. Furthermore, parties are often forced to aggregate many dive rse interests into singular or overly simplistic platforms, leading to a defection of many partic ular interest groups. In fact, Webb suggests that interest groups as political institutions offer an appealing alternative to many citizens: because parties are forced to represent ideological amal gamations, citizens with particular interests may 12


elect more specialized institutions to represent th em and towards which to direct their political energies. For whatever structural reasons, citizens of ten find themselves less and less attached to political parties. This attitude ma nifests itself in a nu mber of ways (Daalder, 1992): first, citizens may adopt a normative position which rejects all parties. Individuals may perceive the party system itself to be detrimental to democracy, and t hus turn away from whatever system or set of options is presented to them. Second, citizens may se lectively reject parties that they perceive to be particularly bad. Parties with a history of corruption or ideological oversimplification may lose citizen support; and how ma ny parties can reasonably escape either of those criticisms? Third, citizens may reject specific party systems. Not quite an indictment of all party politics, and more broad than a criticism of a particular pa rty, this attitude represen ts dissatisfaction with whatever party system a citizen may be offered in his or her system of government. Fourth, citizens may simply view parties as increasingly irrelevant. This attitude does not necessarily entail a negative evaluation of parties or party performance, merely the belief that alternative forms of political involvement are mo re relevant and effective. The Psychology of Independence The authors and research discussed above help explain the aggregate movement of citizens towards Independence, but tells us very little about the psychology of Independence. We can understand why negative attitudes to wards parties, be they attit udes of indifference or hostility, can drive citizens away from partisan affiliation, but what exactly are they being driven towards? What does it mean to identify as an Independent? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not very clear. Baste do and Lodge (1980), in a semantic analysis of what it means to be an Independent, Republican, or Democrat in America, found, not surprisingly, that to be a Republican or Democrat, or a partisan, is a much clearer 13


concept than to be an Independent. The concep t of Independence is no t only semantically ambiguous, but it is difficult to di stinguish from the concept of Republican or Democrat. This means that the scale most commonly used to delineate political affiliation, the 7-point ANES scale, may actually conflate Independence with Republican or Democratic affiliation. The scale, which includes strong and weak partisans, Inde pendents leaning towards one party or another, and pure Independents with no stated preferen ce, assumes that partisanship operates along a unidimensional scale, and this concept has it self come under fire from various corners. Weisberg (1980) contends that the unidimen sional conceptualization of partisanship is entirely insufficient. It is especi ally flawed in regards to Indepe ndence, which the scale treats as a midpoint equally far from either partisan extreme. Instead, Weisberg argues for a multidimensional understanding of partisanship, sp ecifically a three-dimensional model which takes into account an individuals attitude toward s each party (on separate dimensions) as well as the individuals attitude towards Independence. These three dimensions, which are orthogonal, combine to comprise the partisan ch aracter of any given individual. The Multidimensionality of Independence This idea, that Independence is a multidimen sional construct, has received much support in the literature. Valentine and Van Wingen (19 80) demonstrated that Independents display a high association with what they consider Independent values su ch as autonomy, individualism, and rationality. Their analysis of ANES data reve aled at least two signi ficant dimensions of Independence: an individuals attitude towards th e two major parties and the individuals attitude towards Independence itself. However one charac terizes the makeup of attitudes concerning the major parties, be they unidimensional between th e two extremes or a composite of two separate dimensions each measuring attitude towards one pa rty, those attitudes only form one dimension of Independence. This finding was echoed by Crai g (1985), who labeled the partisan dimension 14


saliency of the parties, while also recognizing a dimension of attitudes towards Independence. These two dimensions were empirically supported by Kamieniecki (1988) who conducted regression analysis of ANES data and found that the multidimensional approach yielded greater explanatory power. This point is important, and b ears explication. An individual, under this view, may identify as an Independent for any combination of two reasons: their attitudes towards the parties may lead them towards Independence, or their attitu des towards Independence itself may draw them towards it. So a citizen may be so turned off by the parties that he or she is forced to choose Independence as a form of protest (Dennis, 1988); alternatively, a citi zen may have positive evaluations of both parties, yet still feel strongly attracted to the idea of Independence (Greene, 2004). The Impact of Independence on Political Behavior Of course, political scientists (and political pa rties) are generally more concerned with the behavioral results of psychological attitudes, so how does this multidimensional concept of Independence affect indivi dual political behavior? According to Bruce Keith and his colleague s (1986), it doesnt. They contend that Independent leaners, or individuals who identify as Independent but then express a preference for one party or another, behave just like po litical partisans. The remaining, or pure Independents, are less politically active than the leaners, and so are paid less attention by Keith. Setting aside the important ques tion of why the pure Independents are less involved for a moment, we must deal with this weighty claim. That leaners ofte n behave like partisans has been confirmed already (Wattenberg, 1987; Dennis, 1992) which leads us to suspect that the label Independent in these cases is misleading, and the distinction between leaning Independents and partisans is a meaningless one. 15


Greene (2000) has argued, however, that leaners do differ from partisans in two important behavioral respects: they are more likel y to engage in split-tic ket voting and they are more likely to change their affiliation (or lean) over time. Both of these behaviors suggest that leaners, despite some similarities to partisans, are still, to some degree, independent, and are more susceptible to persuasion. Moreover, Keith et al (1986) acknowledge the second dimension of Independence, the individuals attitude towards Independent values, though they disregard it as self-image and meaningless in the larger question of political behavior. Not only does this fence off fertile ground for research and a greate r understanding of the psychol ogy of Independence, it also ignores the fact that this s elf-image seems to be largely responsible for the behavioral differences cited by Greene. Other researchers have uncovered other di fferences between Independent leaners and partisans. Martinez and Gant (1990) demonstrated that for many I ndependents, it is particular issues that drive partisan behavi or. Unlike partisans, who tend to take a big picture approach to choices like voting, Independents tend to be dr iven more by particular issues when making political choices. Additionall y, Jack Dennis (1988 and 1992), who has conducted extensive studies of Independents and partisan behavi or, has found both important similarities and differences between the two groups. For instance, Independents behave like partisans in terms of commitment and political involvement, but differ in their high regard for political autonomy and their political mobility. Why Do People Choose Independence? Beyond the simple two-dimensional explana tion offered above, other authors, most notably Dennis, have provided more extensive explanations of why individuals choose to identify as Independent. 16


In his article Political independence in Am erica, part II: Towards a theory, Dennis (1988) tests four hypotheses concer ning motivations for identifyi ng as an Independent. First, individuals may identify as an Independent because they highly value political autonomy. These citizens feel a sort of civic duty in their Independent identity; they believe that by being an Independent they are preserving their ability to act rationally and pragmatically despite partisan influences, that they are bei ng true individuals. Second, an individual may identify as an Independent out of a sense of what Dennis calls anti-partyism (p. 202). This sentiment may take any of the forms developed by Daalder (19 92), which were discussed earlier. Third, an individual may identify as an Independent becau se they are truly neutral towards the parties. They may perceive no discernible cost or benefit to affiliating with or supporting either party, and truly do default to the midpoint of Independence. Finally, an individual may identify as an Independent because, in evaluating their past pol itical behavior, they perceive themselves as being politically mobile. This group of individuals simply reflects on their voting history and, seeing that they have supported both parties at one time or another, conclude that they must be an Independent. Denniss regression analysis finds support for each of these four dimensions of Independence in ANES data, and his theoretical model is helpful to this inquiry. Another important researcher in this field is Steven Gr eene, who has explored the idea of Independence from a psychological perspective, and has produced intere sting and important re sults. In a recent study, Greene demonstrates that identifying as an Independent or partisan is a matter of social identity (Greene, 2004). While many theorists treat partisanship as an internal factor that often determines group membership and social identity, Greene contends that we identify as partisans or Independents largely because we perceive thos e social groups to be prestigious or otherwise 17


attractive. In other words, if an individual positively evaluates Independents as a group, he or she will be more likely to identify as an Independent. Greenes research also confirms the multidimensionality of partisanship, suggesting that as our evaluations of partisan groups rise, our evaluations of Independents as a group falls, and vice versa. Nevertheless, we may identify as an Independent because of our evaluation of that social group, and yet still behave like a partisan for cognitive or strategic reasons. Greene (2000) has also conducted unique psyc hological surveys of Independent leaners, developing additional differences between them a nd partisans that helps us understand how the different dimensions of Independe nce contribute to the choice to identify as Independent despite partisan behaviors or tendencies. Greene has f ound that Independent lean ers are less affectedly attached to their partisan tendenc ies than outright partisans; instea d, their partisan behaviors are a result of cognitive attachment and strategic deci sions. Also, Independent leaners identify with other Independents as a social group before and above they iden tify with partisans. Ideology and Independence Now that we understand more about Independenc e and its relationship to partisanship, we must learn more about ideology and its inter action with Independence. From very early on, political scientists have noticed the inconsiste ncies associated with ideology and ideological identification. Converse (1964) noted that most citizens had very little ideological consistency among their issue positions: they might identify themselves as c onservative, but then indicate consistently liberal positions on pa rticular issues, or vi ce versa. Ideology did not seem to provide a clear mechanism for citizens to identify or make sense of their issue positions. Instead, according to Conover and Feldman (1981), ideology is actually more about symbolically self-labeling than it is about issues and attitudes. Like partisanship, people view themselves in certain ways, and then identify w ith the labels that come closest to their self18


image. If a person feels closer to those people she considers 'lib eral', she is more likely to consider herself a liberal. But what happens if these ideological labels are insufficient? Or if they bear no close resemblance to the available partisan dimensions or identities? Ideol ogy is popularly conceived of in simple, 'left/right' terms. This is similar to the unidimensional model of partisanship that places Independence squarely between the 'left', th e Democrats, and the 'right', Republicans. But this unidimensional model may not sufficiently ca pture the complexity of ideology. Huckfeldt et al (1999) seem to support this idea, suggesting that if an individual does not conceive of the world in left/right terms, then it would be ex ceptionally difficult for them to place themselves on a left/right scale of ideology. In fact, very few Americans even understand the left/right scale to begin with (Kitschelt and Hellemans, 1990). With confusion about the very terms people are expected to identify themselves with, it is not surprising that they may be confused about their own identity. Why could this not lead to individuals "opting-out" of the left/right scale altogether, and identifying in terms that reject that fundamental dichotomy? Abramowitz (1983) has indicated that cl ear ideological convictions tend to produce changes in partisanship among college students; fo r instance, a student with a liberal ideology is more likely to adopt a liberal partisanship dur ing college. If ideology can pull an individual towards partisanship, couldn' t it also pull an individual away from partisanship? Now a clearer picture of Independents and th e various motivations for their choice of identity emerges. First, some Independents simply place a high value on the concept of Independence and related ideas of political autonomy a nd rationality. Even if they have clear partisan preferences, they choose the positive association as an Independent over a partisan 19


association. Second, some Independents just choo se to avoid the partisan system. They may perceive the parties to be corrupt or ineffectiv e, and resort to identifying as Independent as a form of protest. They may also simply be neut ral towards the parties: they either perceive no meaningful difference between the parties, or what differences exist are irrelevant to their lives. Whether the attitude is negative or just ambi guous, some Independents identify as such because of distaste for the parties. Finally, some Independents are overwhelmed by ideological complexity, or perhaps underwhelmed by partisan simplicity. They may be confused by complex ideological options, or dissatisfied with the lack of ideological similarity between their position and that of the parties. Ideological complexity th at cannot be reduced to a simple left/right scale leaves individuals feeling politically homeless, unsure of where they belong. College Students and Independents Abramowitz (1983) has found that college students often change their partisan affiliation while in college. While Abramowitz is chiefly c oncerned with partisanship and partisan change, his research may have important implications fo r the study of Independents. Abramowitz argues that college students go through a period of rational evaluation, when they compare their ideology to their partisanship and often reconsid er their partisan affiliation if the two do not match up. A liberal student who was raised as a Republican will often switc h his affiliation to Democrat, and vice versa for a conservati ve student raised as a Democrat. The higher rate of Independence among college students is confusing in light of the relatively high level of political involvement am ong college students compared to their collegeaged peers (Bernstein, 2005). In th is case, at least, identifying as an Independent may not signify withdrawal from the political process, but instead a new way of engaging in it. If this is the case, it is especially important for us to understand ho w Independence can affect the political behavior 20


and attitudes of college students, be they partisan or Independent themselv es. In order to explore these ideas, we will use the power of the media to set the political agenda and frame candidates. Second-Level Agenda Setting and Framing The process of agenda setting has been a s ubject of inquiry for communication scholars for several decades (see studies including Iy engar & Kinder, 1987; McCombs & Shaw, 1972; Wanta, 1997). Researchers studyi ng agenda-setting typically focus on the amount of coverage that a particular issue receives; the theory of agenda setting asse rts that the media has the power to influence what the audience thinks about (McCom bs & Shaw, 1972). Recent research, however, has begun to emphasize the pow er of the media to influence how the audience and public think about those issues (Benford & Hunt, 1992; Ghanem, 1997; Soroka, 2003). Modern agenda-setting theory includes a rather large subset referred to as second-level agenda setting (Ghanem, 1997; McCombs & Estr ada, 1997). Ghanem (1997) lays out a thorough explanation of second-level agenda setting: within a set agenda, media outle ts control the way issues are prioritized within a policy category, how causality is perceived and understood by the public, what relevance is assigned to different aspects of an issu e, and what policy options are pursued by activists and voters. These different el ements of an audiences reaction to an issue form a powerful foundation for social action: many scholars and researcher s have established the link between the effects of second-level agenda setting and audience attitudes towards candidates and political issues (McCombs & Reynolds, 200 2; Weaver, 1996). The media chooses to cover different aspects of a candidacy, a nd as a result the publics view of that candidate is influenced. Second-level agenda setting discusses the media or public agenda on, not surprisingly, two levels: objects and attributes (McCombs & Ghanem, 2001). Objects ar e issues or ideas on the media's agenda, such as the war in Iraq or the economy; attributes are particular characteristics or ways of thinking about those objects, such as looking at the economy from a 21


middle-class perspective or a corporate perspectiv e. So a candidates place on the agenda is the first-level, the level of objects, and then the way that the candidate is trea ted is the second-level, or the level of attributes. Agenda setting is generally considered a f unction of the mass media; this study is more interested in the effects that th is process has on the attitudes of voters. The attributes that the media may present surrounding a give n object on the agenda contri bute to the public's perception of the object, and here is where second-level ag enda setting begins to look a lot like framing theory. In fact, second-level ag enda setting is so similar to framing theory as to cause many scholars to argue for their convergence (Yiout as & Segvic, 2003; McCombs & Ghanem, 2001). Framing theory is borrowed from sociology a nd psychology (Goffman, 1 974; Reese, 2001) and deals with the way people view the world around them. Many authors have used similar ideas in the past (Gamson, 1992; Graber, 1988; Riker, 19 86), but it was Entman (1993) that brought the framing literature together into a unified th eory. This application of framing to mass communication emphasized two primary processes: selection and salience. Media outlets frame issues by selecting what to incl ude in a story and then assigning varying levels of salience to those issues (Entman, 1993). That framing theory can make better sense of attitudinal or psychologi cal changes is just one reason why it is the appropriate framework for this study. Frami ng is also an important area of research for political communication because of its ability to direct action. This connection between framing and social acti on exists in three ways. First, when ideas are included or excluded from a frame, action is either prom pted or effaced (Sniderman, Brody, & Tetlock, 1991). This process of selection rela tes rather directly to the basi c process of agenda setting, and it is easy to see how the information included or excluded about a candida te would drastically 22


affect how voters react to that ca ndidate. If there is a particular piece of information that a voter would find actionable, that information's inclusion in a frame would help lead to that voter taking action; but if the information is excluded altogeth er from a frame, then a voter or citizen would never have cause to act in the first place. The second way that framing directs action is through the creation and maintenance of phenomenological signifiers; the very names and titles we use to describe the world around us can determine our attitudes towa rds social action (Gamson, 1992) The political battle waged over partial-birth abortions shows how a politi cally charged name can have great influence over a public debate (Esacove, 2004). The signifiers we use to describe objects in the political landscape are a result of how those objects and thei r related issues are framed, and the names we end up with are a fundamental part of our political atti tudes. The term Independent is itself a semantically unclear term (Bastedo and Lodge 1980): its meaning is constantly undergoing changes based on the political landscape. How the media chooses to frame an Independent candidate goes to the very heart of what it means to be Independent at all. This element of framing relates to issue-ow nership theory. Petrocik (1996) demonstrates that each of the two main political parties 'o wns' a set of issues: th e general public strongly associates each party with certain issues, and co mes to view the parties as being most effective on those issues that they own. But there is no "I ndependent" party; choosing to identify as an Independent does not entail an affinity for a pa rticular set of issues, nor do Independent candidates 'own' issues in the same way that Democrats or Republicans do. This semantic ambiguity, perhaps due to a lack of issueownership, makes it difficult for Independent candidates to positively identify themselves. Issue-ow nership theory also contends that as issues are mentioned more frequently by candidates or by the media, the general public comes to view 23


those issues as increasingly important (Petro cik, 1996). This positive connection between the framing of issues and issues saliency w ith the public also can encourage action. Finally, framing can direct so cial action by suppressing altern ative discourse and frames. When frames have taken hold of the public t hought process, alternat ive viewpoints find it remarkably difficult to build momentum for social action (Gamson, 1988). Because protests against the dominant discourse generally rely on language and t actics that fall beyond the scope of the dominant frame, the general populace ea sily discounts them. If the media treats an Independent candidate, or Indepe ndent candidates generally, one way, then it will be remarkably difficult for a candidate to shake that definiti on. Essentially, the general psyche of a population can only support one dominant frame at a time, a nd so all interpretation of new information is filtered through that frame. Encouraging action or protest against a dominant frame, such as the two-party system of politics, becomes increasingly difficult as the dominant frame becomes more deeply embedded in the publics mind. I ndependent candidates must combat not only partisan biases but also media frames that may misrepresent their motivations. These various factors and their interplay w ith the success or failure of frames all contribute to audience beliefs a nd behaviors, particularly in elections. The choice between competing candidates and ideas may be over-limited by the way those candidates and issues are framed (Zaller, 1992). Citizens and voters may be unaware of alternatives to the choices presented; Independent candidate s may be portrayed as out of the mainstream and rendered illegitimate by certain frames, and voters are left with fewer choices than may have originally been offered. Even the choices left for the voting populace may be illusory if the frame surrounding the choice has achieved dominance in the mass medi a (Entman, 1989). Choices may be so limited or 24


25 framed in such a biased way as to render them meaningless. Voters may be left to choose between options that all favor one group or intere st; those groups and interests will have won by framing the question in such a way as to preclude adverse answers. Even if choices are not limited or mooted, th ey are still powerfully influenced by frames in the media (Kiousis, 2005). The power of frames to influence the public debate on issues is significant, which leads to intense competition between frames in society and the mass media (Entman, 1989; Riker, 1986; Benford & Hunt 1992). This competition can occur between diverse sources and diverse frames, and the re sults of the competition often determine the outcome of larger social discussi ons. One site of this competition that deserves greater study is the presentation and framing of Indepe ndent candidates for political office.


CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Research Questions In order to better understand dealignment (Cra ig, 1985), we must investigate the various dimensions of nonpartisanship. This study explored how college students react to different frames of Independent political candidates. Most research in this area ha s been conducted at the aggregate, survey-analysis level. While this is fine for understanding aggregat e political behavior, it proves inadequate for understanding the specific mechanisms that driv e individual behavior. Ga ining insight into the decisions of Independent voters and the way co llege students perceive Independent candidates can direct political communication and also test the theories of Independence already extant in the literature. We were interested in three general questions. Resear ch question one: Do Independent students respond to specific fram es of Independent candidates that echo the dimensions of Independence outlined above? Resear ch question two: Does ideological confusion or neutrality result in Independe nt identification? Research questi on three: Do different frames of Independent candidates produce diffe rent responses from students generally? We sought answers to these questions through an experimental design. Framing Independent Candidacies The literature suggests that Independence is a multi-dimen sional concept, and that individuals who identify as Independent do so fo r two basic reasons: they either place a high value on the concept of political autonomy, or they are dissatisfied with the two-party system. The literature on ideology suggests a possible third reason for Independent identification: ideological complexity. This study attempted to activate those be liefs through the use of framing. 26


Independent candidates were presen ted, or framed, in different ways designed to resonate with those values. This study sought to test existing theory by exploring the effects of framing; an experimental design is appropriate for this sort of research, as it affords the greatest chance to understand the causal relationship between framing and individual assessment of candidates (Hakim, 1986). The study design had two experimental groups and one control group. Participants were drawn from public speaking classes at a large Southeastern university; participants were offered extra credit for their participat ion. Drawing from this population presents challenges to the external validity and generali zability of the results, though Kuhbe rger (1998), in a meta-analysis of framing effects research, has found that college students do not significantly vary from the general population. This suggests that the results of this study are still relevant to society as a whole; nevertheless, learning more about college students in particular is still a valuable goal. Methods and Survey Instrument Participants were told that th ey are participating in a study on media coverage of political races. They were given a mock news story abou t a Congressional race in the Midwest between a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent candida te. The mock story was modeled after a real Midwestern newspaper, so that the source credib ility was not called into question: this was done to prevent disengagement by pa rticipants (Druckman, 2001). The articles and surveys were bundled in packets, then collate d by experimental group, so that the packets cycled through each group. Each class that was used as part of the sample received p ackets from each experimental group, so that approximately one-third of each cl ass was placed into each group. Each group was only exposed to one story, with one version of the framing of the Independent candidate; this 27


was done to prevent frame competition and a po ssible wash effect between contradictory frames (Riker, 1986). The control story presented id eologically neutral informati on about the three candidates: their names, basic personal information, their po litical affiliation, and their reason for running for office. This information was designed to be unobtr usive, unremarkable, and generic. The control group is important because it enables a more accurate estimation of the effects of the experimental manipulations. We are not just interested in the way respondents react to the frames of Independence; we also want to know how th ese frames compare to a neutral presentation of Independence, or, put another way, we want to know if these frames of Independent candidates improve or degrade the public's perception of those candidates. The two experimental stories differed only in their presentation of the Independent candidate. By limiting variation to this aspect of the story, we can be st control for confounding variables, one of the chief stre ngths of experimental design (Druckman, 2001). One story framed the Independent candidate as a politically autonomous individual who resists classification, a candidate who may agree with both major parties on certain issues, but nevertheless feels it is important to preserve his independence. The othe r story framed the Independent candidate as a challenge to the two-party system itself, a political outsider who feels that the major parties are too controlling and restrictive of the political system. These fram es were designed to resonate with the Independent values identified in the liter ature, which is one of the clearer ways that frames resonate with viewers (Pattillo-McCoy, 1 998). Frames that employ the cultural language of the target audience are more likely to be adopted, and these frames invoke the values developed by previous li terature on Independents. 28


Before administration of the survey, these mock articles were pre-tested with associates of the researcher and a small nu mber of participants from public speaking classes similar to the classes that the studys sample was drawn from. These participants were asked to read the articles, and then asked several questions con cerning the information contained therein. These participants showed a consistent grasp of the relevant material in the articles, and gave the researcher confidence that the experimental manipulations were significant enough to register with respondents. Internal ma nipulation checks were not incl uded in the actual survey, both because of these successful pre-tests and to k eep the length of the survey to a minimum. After they read the news story, participan ts completed a questi onnaire regarding their attitudes towards the three candidates. Respondents were asked who they would be most likely to vote for in the race; they were also asked to rate their attitudes towards each candidate. Basic demographic and political affiliation informati on was also surveyed in the questionnaire. This post-test only design is well-suited for this study. A pre-test was not necessary, as the control and experimental groups were randomly distributed; this randomization allows us to control for rival hypotheses (Campbell, 1989). As with any experiment al design, the chief concern was internal and external validity. Campbell and Stanley (1963) lay out the primary dangers for validity, and this study was designed to avoid these pitfalls. Th e post-test only design eliminated concerns over instrument decay, ma turation, history, and dropout effects. Because there was no pre-test, and therefor e no delay between the pre-test and post-test phas es, an instant and internally sound measure of participant attitudes was obtained. The chief concern for external validity was that the sample was not representative of the larger population; this concern is addressed above. 29


30 Coding and the Handling of Data The data from the respondents was sorted in to three groups, labeled according to the way that their article treated the I ndependent candidate. Group one receiv ed an article presenting only neutral demographic information, and was re ferred to as the "Neutral" group. Group two received an article presenting the Independent candidate as a political maverick who values political autonomy, and was referred to as the "Autonomy" group. Group three received an article presenting the Independent candidate as disliking the two ma jor political parties, and was referred to as the "Party Antipathy group. Respondents were asked, among other demographi c information, to identify their partisan affiliation. They could choose between Democrat, Republican, Independent, and Something Else. These Something Else responses were grou ped with "Independent" responses for most of the analysis. This was done because actual thir d-party identification, such as with the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, is rare; additionally, th ese two groups were statistically similar enough to merit grouping. Finally, respondents were asked to place them selves on an ideological scale ranging from one, for very liberal, to seven, for very conser vative. These values were inverted for data analysis, as all other questions in the survey assigned lower numerical values for conservative responses and higher numerical values for liberal responses, so each one became a seven, each two a six, and so on.


CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Frequencies and Sample Characteristics In total, 152 surveys were distributed a nd collected in six different public speaking classes at the Universi ty of Florida in February, 2008. Some specific demographic information on the students can be obtained below; the public speaking class that the sample was drawn from is required for most majors at the University, so the sample drew from most fields and from most age groups. Out of these 152 surveys, 14 were excl uded because they were either illegible or because the respondent had failed to answer more than half of the questions. The remaining 138 surveys constituted the sample for the study. The 138 respondents were nearly evenly divide d into the three experimental groups; this distribution can be found in Tabl e 4-1. To test the random distribution of respondents into the three experimental groups, chi-square test s were conducted on the major demographic characteristics of the sample. The chi-square test is appropriate for characteristics such as gender, race, religion, and partisan affiliation because th ese data recorded for these variables is nominal (or categorical). The sample for this study had a large gender gap, with ov er 60% of the sample being female. The distribution of males and female s into the three groups was very nearly even; Table 4-2 displays this distribution and the chisquare summary. The majority of the sample was Caucasian, though a sizable number of minority respondents were included in the survey. Christianity was the most frequent religious affiliation in the sa mple, with a sizable number of respondents also selecting "None" or "Other" as their religious a ffiliation. Both the race and the religious affiliations of responde nts were fairly evenly distributed throughout the three groups, as Table 4-3 (race) and Table 4-4 (religion) show. The sample had more Democrats than Republicans, followed by Independents and then those that chose to identify their partisanship as 31


Something Else; despite apparent variation in the distribution of res pondents, Table 4-5 shows that the various partisan affiliations were distri buted within the realm of chance into the three experimental groups. Question 1: Do Independent Students Respond to Specific Frames of Independent Candidates that Echo the Dimensions of Independence Outlined Above? The first purpose of this research was to determine the ways Inde pendent voters reacted to the different frames of the Independent candi date. The first point of interest was who the Independent students would vote fo r. Before looking at the Indepe ndent students in particular, chi-square figures were obtained for the total number of votes for each candidate in the three experimental groups (Table 4-6). These vote to tals fell within the re alm of chance; crosstabulation and chi-square tests revealed no st atistically significant variation among the vote counts in each experimental group. The next step was to look specifically at those students who identified as Independent. Once we isolated thos e respondents, we found th at both experimental groups had higher voting incide nces for the Independent can didate among Independent respondents (Table 4-7). The tendency for Indepe ndent students to vote for the Independent candidate in the two experiment al groups is pronounced, and co mes very close to statistical significance. The next point of interest was the att itudes of Independent students towards the Independent candidates. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests were conducted on each measure of respondent attitude towards the Independent candidate: general attitude, how qualified the candidate is to hold public office, how strong of a leader the candidate is, and whether or not the candidate shares the respondent's values. These tests all returned significance levels below 95%, indicating that there was no statistically significant impact on Independent respondents' attitudes towards the Independent candidates. How the entire population of 32


respondents reacted to the Indepe ndent candidates and the ways they were framed is discussed under Question 3. Question 2: Does Ideological Confusion or Neut rality Result in Inde pendent Identification? The second area of interest in this research is the effect that ideology had on Independent identity. First, a one-way anal ysis of variance test was conduc ted on the measure of ideology; this test shows no statistically significant varia tion in ideology across th e three groups (Table 48). Ideology was not affected by the experimental manipulation, but did it play a role in the partisan affiliation of respondents? Table 4-9 displays the distribution of ideology across partisan affiliation: we notice in the first two columns that ideological conservatives tended to identify as Republicans and ideological liberals tended to iden tify as Democrats. Independents tended to be slightly more liberal than not, while the larg est number of those st udents identifying as Something Else placed themselves in the exact mi ddle of the ideological scale. Our interest here is not in comparing means, as we can plainly see the influen ce of ideology in the first two columns; additionally, because of the small numb er of Independent students, it is difficult to derive statistically sound conclusi ons from the data. It is notew orthy, though, that only in the fourth category of partisan affiliation, Somethi ng Else, did most respondents indicate a neutral ideology. Question 3: Do Different Frames of Independent Candidates Produce Different Responses from Students Generally? The third purpose of this research was to explore the attitudes towards Independent candidates and the effects that varying frames had on those attitudes. The first measure of these attitudes is the likely vote of th e respondents. An initial glance at Table 4-6 reveals higher vote counts for the Independent candidate in the two experimental groups ; the chi-square test on this variable, however, demonstrates that this variation is within the realm of chance (significance is 33


indicated in the rightmost column of Table 4-6). Additionally, there ar e larger numbers of Independent voters in those two groups (Table 4-5), making it more difficult to conclude that the experimental manipulation was responsible for the variation in the vote c ount. To test this, chisquare tests were run on the vot e distributions in the three groups, controlling for partisan affiliation. These tests resulted in no statistically significant variati on in expected vote counts in the three experimental groups. Looking at the attitudes of respondents toward s the Independent candidates, there is some variation between the three groups. Table 4-10 di splays the mean scores for each measure of attitude towards the Independent candidate in the thre e groups. A one-way analysis of variance test was conducted on these means, and the signif icance values of this test are reported in the rightmost column of Table 4-10. The first two measures of attitude display ve ry little variation in the means among the three groups, and the corr esponding p-values (.705 and .445, respectively) suggest that what differences do exist are well within the limits of expected statistical variation. The p-values for the measures of whether the candi date would make a strong leader or shares the values of the respondent are also below the thresh old for statistical signif icance. It is noteworthy, however, that the Neutral group pr oduced the lowest mean scores on those two measures, and a pronounced difference exists between the mean scor es of the Neutral grou p at least one of the two experimental groups: on the measure of the candidate as a strong leader, the Autonomy group rated the candidate notably higher than the Neutral group; on the measure of the candidate sharing the values of the respondents, the Pa rty Antipathy group rated the candidate notably higher than the Neutral group. These results, with significance vales of .094 and .079, both approach the 95% threshold fo r statistical significance. 34


To further test these relationships, independe nt sample t-tests were conducted for both the strong leader measure and the shared values meas ure. These tests looked at the two groups with the largest difference in means: for the strong lead er measure, the t-test compared the means of the Neutral group and the Autonomy group; for the sh ared values measure, the t-test compared the means of the Neutral group and the Part y Antipathy group. These tests were conducted because the one-way analysis of variance may be measuring a double-effect, or, in other words, because both experimental groups may be having an effect on the mean scores of these measures, which would obscure a statisti cally significant difference betw een one of the means and the control group. Both of these suppl emental t-tests revealed statis tically significant differences between the means. The difference between the Neutral and Autonomy group means on the strong leader measure returned a p-value of .027; the difference between the Neutral and Party Antipathy group means on the shared values measure returned a p-value of .020. These relationships will be further explored in the next chapter. 35


Table 4-1. Distribution of responde nts into experimental groups Group Percent N = Neutral 32.6% 45 Autonomy 33.3% 46 Party antipathy 34.1% 47 Total 100.0% 138 Table 4-2. Distribution of respondents by gender N= Group Male Female Total Chi-square significance Neutral 18 27 45 .525 Autonomy 18 28 46 Party antipathy 14 33 47 Total 50 88 138 Table 4-3. Distributi on of respondents by race N= Group White Black Asian Hispanic Other Total Chi-square significance Neutral 30 6 3 2 4 45 .157 Autonomy 28 6 8 4 0 46 Party antipathy 31 6 5 5 0 47 Total 89 18 16 11 4 138 Table 4-4. Distribution of respondents by religion N= Chi-square significance Group Catholic Jewish Islamic Protestant Other None Total Neutral 15 3 1 7 12 8 45 .907 Autonomy 12 3 1 8 14 7 46 Party antipathy 13 4 1 12 13 4 47 Total 40 10 3 27 39 19 138 Table 4-5. Distribution of res pondents by partisan affiliation Republican Democrat N= Something else Totals Chi-square significance Independent Neutral 12 25 3 5 45 .141 Autonomy 18 18 8 2 46 Party antipathy 13 18 12 4 47 Totals 43 61 23 11 138 36


Table 4-6. Vote totals for each candidate by group N= Group Rep. Dem. Ind. Chi-square significance Neutral 14 21 10 .130 Autonomy 17 15 14 Party antipathy 14 12 21 Total 45 48 45 Table 4-7. Indicated candidate preferences by Independent studen ts, layered by experimental group N= Affiliation Group Rep. Dem. Ind. Independent Neutral 1 2 0 Autonomy 2 1 5 Party antipathy 2 1 9 Something else Neutral 0 4 1 Autonomy 0 2 0 Party antipathy 1 0 3 Total independents Neutral 1 6 1 Autonomy 2 3 5 Party antipathy 3 1 12 Table 4-8. Mean ideology scores between groups. Group N= Mean Score ANOVA significance Neutral 45 4.5333 .101 Autonomy 46 3.9130 Party antipathy 47 4.0638 Total 138 4.1667 Note: Ideological scale ranges from 1 (v ery conservative) to 7 (very liberal). Table 4-9. Distribution of ideol ogy across partisan identification. Ideology Partisanship (N=) Republicans Democrats Independents Something else Totals 1.00 1 0 1 0 2 2.00 18 0 0 1 19 3.00 17 2 6 1 26 4.00 6 15 4 5 30 5.00 1 26 8 1 35 6.00 0 13 4 3 20 7.00 0 5 0 0 6 Total 43 61 23 11 138 Mean ideology 2.72 5.07 4.30 4.36 Note: Ideological scale ranges from 1 (v ery conservative) to 7 (very liberal). 37


38 Table 4-10. Mean scores for attit udes towards Independent candidate. Measure of respondent attitude Group Mean ANOVA significance I like the independent candidate Neutral 4.4444 Autonomy 4.5870 .705 Party antipathy 4.6170 I believe the independent candidate is qualified to hold public office Neutral 5.3556 Autonomy 5.0435 .445 Party antipathy 5.1915 I believe the independent candidate would make a strong leader Neutral 4.5111 Autonomy 5.0435 .094 Party antipathy 4.7872 I believe the independent candidate shares my values Neutral 4.1556 Autonomy 4.3478 .079 Party antipathy 4.6809 Note: All four measures were on a scale of 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree).


CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This study was conducted to discover more about Independent voters and Independent political candidates. The first aim was to learn more about how Independent voters form their opinions and attitudes, the second aim was to le arn more about the connection between ideology and Independence, and the third was to learn more about how Independent candidates might frame their candidacies and how these frames mi ght be received by the p ublic. In analyzing the gathered data, more can be learned about th e third question than th e first two, though some lessons are there to be had for all three areas of interest. Independent Voters Before looking at some conclusions, it should be noted again that those respondents who identified themselves as either Independent or Something Else are considered Independents for our purposes. This choice was made initially because those who identified as Something Else were unlikely to be actually affiliated with a third party (such as the Green Party or the Libertarian Party), and the data bore th is supposition out. Respondents identifying as Independent and those identifying as Something Else answered the survey in statistically similar ways. There is one notable exception to this statistical si milarity, which will be noted below. Otherwise, from here on, we will refer to both of these groups of respondents simply as Independents. The data collected here confir ms that Independents behave mu ch like traditional partisans when deciding which candidates to support. Most Independent respondents indicated that they would likely vote for the Independent candidate. These Independents came from both sides of the ideological scale, with si gnificant numbers registering as both conservative and liberal. Additionally, these respondents varied in their se cond preferences, as registered in their general 39


attitudes towards the other two can didates: some seemed to prefer the Democrat as their second choice, others the Republican. So these Independ ent voters exist on both e nds of the ideological spectrum. The tendency among Independent respondents to vote for the Independent candidate was similar among partisan respondents; partisansh ip was easily the best predictor of voting preference. In the two experimental groups, however, Independent students were more likely to vote for the Independent candidate s. This tendency was not statis tically significant, but it was pronounced nonetheless. At the same time, there was much variation be tween the three groups separate from the experimental manipulation, so it would be difficult to say with any certainty that the manipulation was responsible for the tendency. Nevertheless, this suggestive finding may mean that Independent voters had their Independence triggered by the positive Independent frames, and thus were more likely to vote in line with their Independent identity. When comparing the data from the three groups of respondents, we find little other evidence of Independent-specific effects. The vo tes were not equally distributed in all three groups or among all different partisan affiliations, but this variation seems attributable to chance, not to the experimental manipul ation in the news article. There were also no specific changes in the attitudes of the Independent respondents towards the three candidates. T hough there were some statistical ly significant changes in the attitudes of the population as a whole, these changes were not specifi c to the Independent respondents, nor did they seem es pecially pronounced among that group. In summary, there were no statistically si gnificant effects on the I ndependents in this survey, but their voting tendencies suggest a relationship between the frames deployed in the articles and their decision to vote Independent. Beyond that, th eir attitudes seemed largely 40


determined merely by their identification as I ndependent. A connection could still exist in two ways: either the Independent frames in the arti cle encouraged the respondents to identify as Independent in the first place, or perhaps it tr iggered their partisanship and encouraged an Independent vote. Ideology and Independence Some evidence suggests, but does not confir m, a relationship between Independence and voting behavior. Ideology, by contrast, was not very strongly correlate d with vote at all. In fact, there seemed to be a good d eal of confusion surrounding the question on ideology: several respondents indicated ideological affiliations th at, on the surface, seemed at odds with their partisan affiliation (i.e. a Republican identifying as very libe ral, or a Democrat as very conservative). While these choices are not unhear d of in the political landscape, and could actually represent the true ideologies of these re spondents, it seems more likely that they were merely confused by the question. Two respondents actu ally went so far as to ask what the word ideology meant, which suggests that othe rs may have been silently confounded. Whatever the source of the confusion, it seemed to have no effect on the other attitudes of these respondents. It was thought that ideologi cal confusion might incr ease susceptibility to frames, or that those respondent s who registered complex ideologies would be more likely to identify as Independent, but this was not the case: the ideological confusion was not limited to Independents, and seemed to occur throughout the sample. The one exception to this is another sugge stive finding, this time relating to those individuals who specifically iden tified as Something Else on the partisanship question. These individuals were more likely than others to choose neutrality when confronted with the traditional left/right scale of ideology. The numbe r of these responses was quite low (11), and so no real statistical analysis could be conducted on this particular populatio n, but it is worth noting 41


that the largest number of them selected neutrality. This might suggest that individuals who find themselves outside of traditiona l partisan norms might also ha ve difficulty conforming to the traditional ideological classifications. This coul d prove fertile ground for future research that explores more fully the connection between ideological complexity or confusion and Independence. Independent Candidates The data gathered in this study show no si gnificant change to the predicted voting behaviors of the sample. Different frames of Independent candidates also do not seem to influence the general attitudes to wards those candidates, but they do seem to produce changes in particular attitudes as measured by questions about the candidates qualities. The one-way analysis of variance on measures of strong leadership and shared va lues revealed notable, but not statistically significant, differences in the mean scores of the th ree groups. We suspect that this may be due to both experimental groups produci ng a change in these evaluations. Independent sample t-tests returned statistically significant differences between partic ular groups. When the Independent candidate was presented as a maveric k, valuing his political autonomy over ties to particular parties, respondents we re more likely to say that he would make a strong leader. When the Independent candidate was presented as dis liking the two main parties, respondents were more likely to say that he shared their values. These two findings tell us several things. The first finding tells us about what college students are looking for in a leader: political autonomy and independence is considered a quality of a strong leader. It may not be the determining factor in a stude nts vote, but it undoubtedly pl ays into their conception of politicians and potential leaders. The second finding tells us some thing about at least one value that college students maintain: a dislik e for divisive partisan politics. 42


Perhaps more importantly, the findings confirm, to some degree, that the different elements of political Independence do indeed register in different ways with college students. A unidimensional theory of Independence would pr edict a single way of viewing Independent candidates, but these findings suggest that th ere are at least two separate elements of Independence and that each resonate on different frequencies: one rela tes to the expected strength of leadership an d one to the values that a candidate holds. Neither, in this case, were able to independently influence voting behavior, but ne vertheless can influence voter attitudes. It should be noted again that though the initial focus of this study was on the attitudes of Independent voters, the findings reported here relate to the sample as a whole. No unique correlation was found between Independent voters and the changes in attitudes, but rather the influence on attitudes was registered throughout th e sample. This suggests that the dimensions of Independence register in all categories of partis an affiliation, and tend to have the same effects on many different t ypes of voters. One more observation should be made about the particular attitude data: in both experimental groups, the Independe nt candidate scored lower on the Qualified to hold public office measure than in the Neutral group. This difference was well within the margin of error, but it is still curious that both gr oups registered a lower mean on this measure. Perhaps there is a relationship between Independence and perceived readiness to hold public office; this is, of course, supposition, but again could be a valuable line of future research. Regarding College Students It should be noted that the researcher made several observa tions during the administration of the survey. As mentioned above two respondents went so far as to ask the meaning of the word ideology, which suggests that other stude nts may have been similarly, but silently, confused. In addition to these explicit indicato rs, participants in this study often seemed 43


distracted or bored while completing the survey ; many gave the news article a merely cursory glance before moving onto the survey portion. This general disinterest regist ered in the form of neutral responses, where a re spondent would indicate a neut ral and uncha nging attitude towards all three candidates. Esse ntially, they would ju st circle or for every response. Whether this made the overall data more or less representative of the population is unclear. More thoughts on this phenomenon are incl uded in the next chapter. Theoretical Implications As noted in chapter one, political dealignm ent and the growing number of Independents in America has serious implicati ons for our democracy. Identifying as an Independent can be a form of protest against the dominant political system, and can lead to apathy or disengagement (Craig, 1985). This concern, when coupled with the seeming disinterest noted just above, can be quite troubling. At the same time, this type of protest can be a powerful force for change. The individuals who identify as "Something Else" and seem to register no dominant ideological affiliation may still be quite interested in pol itics, and Independents themselves can maintain high levels of political involvement (Dennis, 1988); this might suggest that Independents and those who have disengaged from the political parties might still be valid targets for political communicators or activists. Some of the findings noted above may point the way to more successful communication strategi es geared towards reincorpor ating Independents into the political fold. These strategies must take heed of the le ssons suggested by this study and the literature explored earlier. Some authors have suggested that Independen ce, among other partisan and political affiliations, are not unidimensional, but multidimensional. The findings of this study seem to confirm that different elements of I ndependence are received differently by students, that, indeed, Independence operates on more than one dimension of political salience. It is 44


important to continue exploring th is issue from both an aggregate, sociological perspective, and also an individual, psychological perspective in order to develop adequate theoretical answers to these questions. Finally, as communicators in politics or any field, we must always take into account our audience and the way they conceive of and present their identities. If we attempt to tailor our communications to the identities of our audience, but do not unders tand the true nature of those identities, then we run two serious risks. Firs t, we are not likely to be successful in our communications if we do not truly understand our audience: whatever our goals may be, they can only be furthered by a more in-depth understand ing of our audience. Second, we actually may alienate our audiences if we misrepresent their identity through our communications. Communication should be a dialogi c process based in mutual re spect and understanding, and if we simplify or theoretically 'flatten our audien ces, then that process breaks down. This study shows the power of specifically tailored commun ication based in a s ound understanding of an audiences identity. 45


CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION To summarize, different fr ames of Independent candidates produced changes in voters attitudes towards those candidates. The frames, presenting the Independent as either a political maverick who values autonomy or as a politician simply fed up with political parties, activated separate dimensions of political Independen ce and produced different effects on voters: one frame made the candidate appear as a strong leader, the other made the candidate appear to share the values of voters. These findings confirm the multidimensional nature of Independence, as well as the importance and power of framing in political communication. The findings of this study do not, however, demonstrate any statisti cally significant tendencies particular to Independent voters. The effects that the frames had on the popul ation were seen throughout the sample, leaving some questions regarding the behaviors and attitudes of Independent voters unanswered. The future of Independent voters and candidate s is of great importance to our society and democracy. Whether or not candi dates begin to court their vo te, large and possibly growing numbers of citizens will continue to identify as Independent and th ey could play si gnificant roles in regional and national elections (Clarke and Stewart, 1998). Bu t their Independence should not be viewed as a unidimensional phenomenon: th e literature suggests, and this study, to some extent, confirms that Independen ce contains at least two dimens ions. These two dimensions of Independence help us to measure the tendencies of all citizens, whether they label themselves as Independent or not. This study demo nstrates that differe nt frames of Independence resonate with students of all partisan and ideological identities. It also shows us that people label themselves as Independent for many reasons, just as they labe l themselves Democrat, Republican, or something 46


else entirely for many reasons, a nd understanding these r easons is an important part of effective political communication. This study shows that the way Independent can didates are framed is important, that highlighting different dimensions of Independenc e produces different effects on voters attitudes. Hopefully, this is only the first step towards a more complete understanding of political Independence, an understanding which could, in time bring more citizens ba ck into the political fold. Potential Applications The findings of this study pres ent three potential av enues for practical application. First, this study adds to the already voluminous body of knowledge on framing and framing effects, enabling more focused communication using frames to resonate with a given audience. Even simple changes in the presentation of basic fact s can produce powerful cha nges in the audiences mind, and communicators, be they in a political campaign or otherwise, must pay particular attention to the way they frame their message. Second, the results of this study seem to i ndicate particular avenue s of communicating to college students in politics. The two dimensions of Independence explored in the study, the value of political autonomy and animosity towards poli tical parties, both produced changes in the attitudes of the sample population of college students. College students, and young people generally, represent the future participants in our democracy. Whether a candidate is an Independent or not, this study sugge sts that using these frames eff ectively might help to win the support of college students, or at least win their attention. Finally, the results of this study suggest im portant ways for Independent candidates to frame their candidacies. The relationships disc overed in this study between the different dimensions of Independence and voter attitudes c ould prove useful to Independent candidates. A 47


politician seeking to establish herself as a str ong leader might do well to play up her political autonomy and sense of independence; if a candida te wants to connect with the values of young voters, then perhaps she should be clear about her distance from th e party-line. These values and traits are here shown to resonate with college students and Independent voters, and both themes could be important tools for pros pective Independent candidates. Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research This study is both focused and limited in its scope. Its goal was to test the multidimensional nature of Independence and lear n more about framing effects, not to draw conclusions about the general popula tion. It was noted earlier that th is studys external validity and generalizability are suspect due to the lim ited sample: the focus on college students makes it difficult to draw conclusions for larger groups, and any theoretical clar ity or confirmation we may gain from the results may be reasonably limited to the college population alone. Future studies of this sort may do well to expand the sa mple to the general population, or perhaps to other particular segments of th e population that are of interest to communicators. Beyond that initial, and perhaps obvious, limitation, there are several other factors that make broad conclusions difficult. First, the study has a relatively small populat ion of students who identify as Independent (n = 34). This small sample makes it difficult to gather precise data on the Independent population as a whole, and also makes it difficu lt to find the effects of the experimental manipulation on the Independents. A larger sample size would both provide more data for more complex analysis in all respects and also serve the specific pur pose of increasing the pool of Independents. Though this study has yielded some insights into the phenomenon of Independence, more can be learned a bout Independent voters themselves. 48


Second, the design of this study relies on a relatively small experimental manipulation: the differences between the three articles presented to respondents are admittedly small, and though pre-testing confirmed that respondents were able to percei ve the differences between the articles and comprehend the information presented, the overall effect may still be very weak. As a result, the potential for the ma nipulation to fail to register w ith many respondents is very real, meaning that a lack of statistic ally significant differences between the three groups could very well be due to a weak manipulation. Future studies should consider more extensive pre-testing, or perhaps include manipulations of varying inte nsities. This would reveal more about the link between the article and respondents attitudes. There might also be some sort of declining returns involved in framing Independents, and data from varying manipul ations would help illuminate that principle. The third limitation to the current study is the medium of manipulation. A single newspaper article describing a distant and relati vely unimportant Congres sional race may not be the most interesting material to present to a nybody, much less college students. Many of the surveys seemed to be filled out in merely the mo st painless way; for example, more than a few respondents indicated neutra l feelings about all three candidate s on all four measures of attitude. Though they may have been legitimately neutral towa rds the candidates, it is also likely that a newspaper article may not have aroused much intere st in the three candidates at all. If future researchers wished to further explore the di mensions of Independence through experimental manipulation, a different medium may yield better results. Mock televisi on news stories or political advertisements might more effectively communicate the various fr ames deployed in this study. 49


Future research into this field might l ook more closely at the relationship between Independent candidates and Independent voters. This study included Independent voters, but yielded results relevant to the en tire college population. Larger sa mple sizes and greater focus on Independent voters might yield gr eater insights into the psychol ogy of Independence. A similar study that included follow-up in-depth interviews or focus groups might also be more revealing; using surveys to identify Indepe ndent voters who seem to respond to one of the dimensions of Independence could be just part of a study designed to plumb the depths of Independent political thinking. Finally, some of the findings of this study which were not statis tically significant nonetheless spark interesting ne w questions about Independence. First, the respondents who chose Something Else as their partisan affiliation were most likely to be neutral on the measure of ideology. Though it does not confirm our thinking on the link between ideology and Independence, it does give us additional cause to study it further. Future studies could investigate how individuals who are either confused by or fr ustrated with the existing left/right scale of ideology express themselves on measures of par tisanship. Second, the sli ght decrease in the perceived qualifications of the Independent candi date to hold office in the two experimental groups might suggest a link betw een Independence and percepti on of general qualifications. Future research could examine the possible conn ection between the two, and even investigate the link between perceptions of the two-party system and of governance in general. 50


APPENDIX A NEUTRAL GROUP MO CK ARTICLE TEXT Democrat incumbent Nancy Boyda has announced that she will not seek reelection in 2008, leaving her seat in the House of Representa tives up for grabs. What was already going to be a tightly contested ca mpaign has now turned into an all-out battle. Boyda represented Kansass Second Congressi onal District, which covers the eastern quarter of the state and includes the capital, Tope ka. Her seat will be sought by at least three candidates: Republican Chester Mize, Democrat William Avery Jr., and Richard Bird, who will be running as an Independent. Chester Mize, a former state legislator, is th e Republican candidate. Mize comes from an agricultural background, and his family still owns several thousa nd acres of farmland south of Topeka. Mizes record in the state legislature has been productive, if unremarkable: he sponsored five bills in the last two sessions, though all five were supported by both side s of the aisle. Mize has given strong support for moderate Republican Governor Kathleen Sebelius in her past campaigns. William Avery Jr., the presumptive Democratic candidate for the 2nd District seat, comes from a similar background. Avery is the oldest son of Bill Avery, a common name in agricultural circles. Bill served as Kansas Commissioner of Agriculture, and William Jr. served for four years on the state house agriculture committee. Like most Kansan Democrats, Avery consid ers himself a moderate but nevertheless is fiercely loyal to his party. He has been an act ive member of the Democratic State Caucus for over twelve years. The third candidate in this ra ce is Richard Bird, who is r unning as an Independent. Bird has served two complete terms in the state Senate, after being nominated to fill a vacant seat six years ago. Bird is a former Lt. Governor with strong ties to both parties. Bird has worked on a number of different i ssues in the state Senate, rarely leading a charge but often making himself availa ble to support various initiatives. I think its going to be close, no matter who wins, said Clay Archer, a political consultant who has worked in the district before Theres not a lot to distinguish these three from one another, so the campaigns themselves will play a big role. The primaries will be held on August 26th, 2008. 51


APPENDIX B AUTONOMY GROUP MOCK ARTICLE TEXT Democrat incumbent Nancy Boyda has announced that she will not seek reelection in 2008, leaving her seat in the House of Representa tives up for grabs. What was already going to be a tightly contested ca mpaign has now turned into an all-out battle. Boyda represented Kansass Second Congressi onal District, which covers the eastern quarter of the state and includes the capital, Tope ka. Her seat will be sought by at least three candidates: Republican Chester Mize, Democrat William Avery Jr., and Richard Bird, who will be running as an Independent. Chester Mize, a former state legislator, is th e Republican candidate. Mize comes from an agricultural background, and his family still owns several thousa nd acres of farmland south of Topeka. Mizes record in the state legislature has been productive, if unremarkable: he sponsored five bills in the last two sessions, though all five were supported by both side s of the aisle. Mize has given strong support for moderate Republican Governor Kathleen Sebelius in her past campaigns. William Avery Jr., the presumptive Democratic candidate for the 2nd District seat, comes from a similar background. Avery is the oldest son of Bill Avery, a common name in agricultural circles. Bill served as Kansas Commissioner of Agriculture, and William Jr. served for four years on the state house agriculture committee. Like most Kansan Democrats, Avery consid ers himself a moderate but nevertheless is fiercely loyal to his party. He has been an act ive member of the Democratic State Caucus for over twelve years. The third candidate in this ra ce is Richard Bird, who is r unning as an Independent. Bird has served two complete terms in the state Sena te, and is in the middle of his third term. A maverick since his first election, Bird resists political classification. In the state Senate, Bird has worked closel y with Republicans, but he is running as an Independent because he feels he can make better d ecisions without strict ties to party politics. I dont want to be tied down to one label or another, said Bird. I think being able to define your own politics is an impor tant part of our democracy. I think its going to be close, no matter who wins, said Clay Archer, a political consultant who has worked in the district before Theres not a lot to distinguish these three from one another, so the campaigns themselves will play a big role. The primaries will be held on August 26th, 2008. 52


APPENDIX C PARTY ANTIPATHY GR OUP MOCK ARTICLE TEXT Democrat incumbent Nancy Boyda has announced that she will not seek reelection in 2008, leaving her seat in the House of Representa tives up for grabs. What was already going to be a tightly contested ca mpaign has now turned into an all-out battle. Boyda represented Kansass Second Congressi onal District, which covers the eastern quarter of the state and includes the capital, Tope ka. Her seat will be sought by at least three candidates: Republican Chester Mize, Democrat William Avery Jr., and Richard Bird, who will be running as an Independent. Chester Mize, a former state legislator, is the Republican candidate. Mize comes from an agricultural background, and his family still owns several thousa nd acres of farmland south of Topeka. Mizes record in the state legislature has been productive, if unremarkable: he sponsored five bills in the last two sessions, though all five were supported by both side s of the aisle. Mize has given strong support for moderate Republican Governor Kathleen Sebelius in her past campaigns. William Avery Jr., the presumptive Democratic candidate for the 2nd District seat, comes from a similar background. Avery is the oldest son of Bill Avery, a common name in agricultural circles. Bill served as Kansas Commissioner of Agriculture, and William Jr. served for four years on the state house agriculture committee. Like most Kansan Democrats, Avery consid ers himself a moderate but nevertheless is fiercely loyal to his party. He has been an act ive member of the Democratic State Caucus for over twelve years. The third candidate in this ra ce is Richard Bird, who is r unning as an Independent. Bird has served two complete terms in the state Senate and is in the middle of his third term. He has chosen to run as an Independent because he is dissatisfied with the two parties here in Kansas. Following a bitter gubernatorial race in 2006, many Kansans were upset with the political process, Bird among them. Neither party came out of that election clean, and Bird has indicated that he just would not feel comfor table running on either ticket. I dont feel particularly close to either party, said Bird. In fact, I think neither party really presents a good choice for our citizens. I think its going to be cl ose, no matter who wins, said Clay Archer, a political consultant who has worked in the district before Theres not a lot to distinguish these three from one another, so the campaigns themselves will play a big role. The primaries will be held on August 26th, 2008. 53


APPENDIX D SURVEY INSTRUMENT 1. In the attached newspaper ar ticle, there are three candidate s running for a seat in the House of Representatives: Chester Mize, a Republican; William Avery Jr., a Democrat; and Richard Bird, an Independent. If you were a citizen of this Congressional district, who would you be most likely to vote for? A. Chester Mize (R) B. William Avery, Jr. (D) C. Richard Bird (I) 2. Please indicate how you feel a bout each candidate on a scale of 1 (strongly dislike) to 7 (strongly like). Strongly Dislike Neutral Strongly Like Chester Mize 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 William Avery, Jr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Richard Bird 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3-5: Please indicate how st rongly you agree with the following statements in regards to each candidate. 3. This candidate is qualifi ed to hold public office. Strongly Disagree Neutral Strongly Agree Chester Mize 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 William Avery, Jr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Richard Bird 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 4. This candidate would make a strong leader. Strongly Disagree Neutral Strongly Agree Chester Mize 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 William Avery, Jr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Richard Bird 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 54


5. This candidate shares my values. Strongly Disagree Neutral Strongly Agree Chester Mize 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 William Avery, Jr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Richard Bird 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 6. What is your gender? A. Male B. Female 7. What is your race? A. White B. Black C. Asian D. Hispanic E. Other 8. What year are you in school? A. Freshman B. Sophomore C. Junior D. Senior E. Other 9. What is your parents estimated annual income? A. $0 $25,000 B. $25,000 $50,000 C. $50,000 $75,000 D. $75,000 $125,000 E. $125,000 or greater 10. What is your religious affiliation? A. Catholic B. Jewish C. Islamic D. Protestant E. Other F. None 11. Do you consider yourself a Democrat, a Repub lican, an Independent, or something else? A. Republican B. Democrat C. Independent D. Something Else 12. Please place yourself on the following scale from 1 (very liberal) to 7 (very conservative). Very Liberal Neutral Very Conservative 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 13. How strongly do you identify with the ideology you just selected? Not very strongly Neutral Very strongly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 55


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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jeff Hannan was born and raised in Plantation, Florida. He graduated from Nova High School in 2000, then attended the University of Florida from 2000 until 2004, earning a bachelors degree in English and religion. Afte r graduation, Jeff worked as the Communications Director for Deborah Watts, candi date for Congress in Minnesota s third Congressional district. Following this experience, Jeff chose to return to school to study pol itical communication. Jeff works as an assistant debate coach for N ova High school, and also as an instructor at the Florida Forensics Institute. After graduation, Je ff plans to paint, write letters to his friends each Sunday, and coach high school volleyball. 60