Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

Date:
July 24, 2014
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study, these 'surprised losers' often have less trust in government and democracy.

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often have less trust in government and democracy.

And the news media may be partly to blame, according to Barry Hollander, author of the study and UGA professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

"You need the trust of those in a democracy for democracy to be successful," said Hollander. "We have become more fragmented in our media diet and that leads to hearing what we want to hear and believing what we want to believe despite all evidence to the contrary, such as polls. Our surprise in the election outcome makes us angry, disappointed and erodes our trust in the basic concept of democracy-the election. And that can threaten our trust in government."

Based on the theory of wishful thinking-the idea that people tend to predict their own favorite sports team or candidate will win-Hollander analyzed 5,914 survey responses conducted by the American National Election Study before and after the 2012 presidential election. He examined people's pre-election predictions, their news media consumption habits, and ultimately their trust in government and democracy. The results were published in the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly on July 24.

He found that "surprised losers," those who predicted their candidate would win but who eventually lost, are more skeptical of government, democracy and the election process than are expected losers, or those who favored the same candidate but expected to lose. Despite all evidence to the contrary, 78 percent of Mitt Romney supporters during the 2012 election believed he would win. Nearly all polls showed President Barack Obama leading throughout the campaign.

"When predicting an election outcome, people sample themselves, friends, family and Facebook friends," Hollander said. "You draw a sample of those people like yourself, and we are drawing a very biased sample. In this way our own preferences have enormous weight."

In addition to sampling people much like themselves, the media that people draw from can influence their perception. Previous research from Hollander studied the effect of news consumption on political knowledge.

"In theory, greater news consumption should lead to greater political knowledge," he said. "Therefore, you should become aware of who is winning or losing, and this should reduce wishful thinking. That worked for those who read newspapers, but not for other news media. Also, the stronger you care about the outcome, or feel about a candidate, the more likely you are to think that candidate is going to win, regardless of the polls."

Among Romney supporters, watching Fox News Channel had a unique effect. Controlling for factors such as age, education, race, gender, party identification and exposure to other news, in the current study those who watched Fox News Channel were even more likely to predict Romney would win, and this in turn had an effect on whether or not they thought government posed a threat. In this election, the results suggested if you watched Fox News Channel you were less trusting of the government.

"The more fragmented our media have become the more people are hearing what they want to out of their news and the more surprised they are when the outcome doesn't turn out as they've expected, which could further erode trust in elections, democracy and government," said Hollander. "As a journalist, I didn't give any thought to my effect on people. The danger is if our media continue to become more fragmented, the more and more we tend to hear only what we want to hear and believe what we want to believe, but when the outcome surprises us that can have very real consequences not only in people's own perception but also in the stability of democracy and government."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. The original article was written by April Reese Sorrow. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Barry A. Hollander. The Surprised Loser: The Role of Electoral Expectations and News Media Exposure in Satisfaction with Democracy. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, July 24, 2014 DOI: 10.1177/1077699014543380

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Election surprises tend to erode trust in government." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724134029.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2014, July 24). Election surprises tend to erode trust in government. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724134029.htm
University of Georgia. "Election surprises tend to erode trust in government." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724134029.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

AFP (Sep. 15, 2014) The European Commission met on Monday to coordinate aid that the EU can offer to African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins