Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Gamson Hypothesis

If there's one thing that tickles an academic's heart (and few things do), it's seeing work that cites stuff he did. In this case, the authors did it better. Which is okay. A new Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media article on the "Gamson Hypothesis" cites a study I published back in 1997. That article was:
Hollander, B. A. (1997). Fuel to the fire: Talk radio and the Gamson Hypothesis. Political Communication, 14(3), 355–369.
I put it there because, dammit, this is my blog and I can be as self-referential as I wanna be. Plus I always liked that study. Anyway, a new JOBEM article by Thomas J. Johnson and Barbara K. Kaye extends the hypothesis into a broader range of media than did mine, which obviously from the title above focused on talk radio (all the rage in the dark media days of 1997).

The hypothesis, first posited by William Gamson, suggests "that the combination of low trust in government and high internal or self-efficacy, which is defined as the belief that one can understand and participate effectively in politics (Craig, Niemi, & Silver, 1990), leads to protesting the government, an action Gamson termed as ‘‘mobilizing activity’’ (1968, 1971)." In other words, if you don't trust government but think you can make a difference, you're more likely to be mobilized and take some kind of action. My argument back in 1997 was talk radio was "fuel to the fire" for these folks.

The authors of the new study found different media effects depending on how you're categorized (Assured, Dissident). For me, the interesting finding is among Dissidents, who tended to use non-mainstream sources of information. They say it better below. I boldfaced a part I find most interesting.
For example, strong reliance on political blogs but low reliance on parody television shows predicts being a Dissident, but low reliance on both political sites and talk radio predicts being an Assured. These media reliance findings indicate that those who distrust the government (Dissidents) transfer their distrust to other institutions, such as the mainstream media, and turn to alternative sources such as political blogs because they are perceived as being independent of big media organizations. Being an Assured or Dissident predicts very different media reliance behaviors. These media reliance findings support an earlier Gamson study that this one builds from ( Johnson et al., 2010).
Full cite: Johnson, J.T., & Kaye, B. K. (2013). Putting out Fire with Gasoline: Testing the Gamson Hypothesis on Media Reliance and Political Activity. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 456-481.

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