Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's Up With Cognitive Mobilization?

Scholarly research has its fads, just like music or fashion.  Often, research chases the money -- grant money, that is.  Other times it chases the new hot thing, like Twitter or The Daily Show.  But I'm baffled by my blog statistics that consistently show people searching for cognitive mobilization.

Yes, I've written about it here and here, and yes, my first ever published piece was on cognitive mobilization (in a forgettable academic journal that doesn't really exist any more, called Mass Comm Review.  But now it seems the topic has, if not exploded on the scene, at least generated some new interest.

There are recent pieces in:
  • Electoral Studies (link here)
  • Communication Research (link here)
  • Political Science Review (link here)
  • The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (link here)
  • The International Journal of Public Opinion Research (link here)
And those are just the first ones from 2009 I happened to find in a quick-and-dirty search.  I'm sure I could have kept going with cute little dots and journal titles and links that may or may not be helpful, but you get the point.  Cognitive mobilization is one of the theories designed to explain partisan dealignment, the detachment of political party affiliations.  It's tied to changing values.  As information costs decline, so goes the theory, people will be less likely to follow simple rules of thumb, like party identification, and consider messages and politicians more carefully.

So goes the theory.

It's an odd increase -- or seemingly an increase -- given people at least in the U.S. seem be growing ever more partisan, dragged kicking and screaming by a fragmented partisan cable news environment, but we can't forget that a whole bunch of other people have grown apolitical.  This group doesn't fit the the theory.  They're not carefully considering messages and dealigning themselves, they're simply opting out of the political process.  So I'm a bit baffled by this, at least from a U.S. perspective, but it's nice to see as well since that old Mass Comm Review article of mine from 1991 or so looks prescient now.

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