1. We know that "losers" in an election are more negative about democracy and the electoral process than are "winners."
2. We don't know much about what makes losers tick and why they're so negative (other than being on the losing side, of course).
3. In an unrelated research stream, we know people tend to predict their preferred candidate, prior to an election, will win. For example, three-fourths of Mitt Romney supporters prior to the election predicted he would win. He didn't.
4. So I tie these together to argue "surprised losers" are more likely than "expected losers" to be negative about the electoral process and democracy. I've published one piece in a major journal on this already, one that generated a lot of interest in the press as well.
5. The new piece extended the work to multiple elections.But, in skimming the reviewer comments, no one really liked it all that much. And I admit one reviewer is right in I struggled to tie this to news media, as the results there are slim. My argument is exposure to the news media may either (1) increase your surprise because you selective exposure yourself to likeminded sources or (2) decrease your surprise as the news media provide poll information that shows your candidate is behind. I posed this as a research question and to let the data decide, as theoretically you can argue it either way.
One reviewer hit me on a lack theory despite the fact the paper is full of friggin theory. Brimming with theory. Sick with theory. Indeed, the surprised loser concept rests on the theory of motivated reasoning and consistency theories. Ah well, you cannot argue with reviewers. I know, I review for this very same journal. Often (though maybe, in a pique, I may not do it quite so much ... that'll show them, dammit). I think I may even be on the editorial board of this journal. I'm on a lot, so I forget.
And back to the drawing board. I'm actually writing a "surprised loser" piece at this very moment on the role religion may play -- my theory being religiosity should interact with media use to affect such perceptions. Now I'm not sure whether to revisit the previous piece or finish this one.