INTRODUCING SOCIAL SUPPORT THEORY TO POLITICAL COMMUNICATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE COMMUNICATION DYNAMICS OF POLITICAL SOCIAL SUPPORT AND ITS EFFECTS
AdvisorHolbert, R. Lance
Committee memberHardy, Bruce W.
DepartmentMedia & Communication
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/8302
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThere is a separation between interpersonal political communication research and traditional interpersonal communication theory. The current study bridges this divide by introducing social support theory to political communication. Social support has been shown to aid coping, build self-efficacy, and enhance psychological well-being. It is argued that politics can be a source of stress and individuals exchange political social support (PSS) when facing challenges in their political environments. The current study defines the concept of PSS and its applications in political communication through an initial survey-based proof of concept study and an experiment. The first study, a nationwide cross-sectional survey (N = 2004), was conducted through a Qualtrics panel in September 2018 to assess the internal structure of providing and receiving PSS in citizen-to-citizen relationships. A little more than a quarter of the sample (n = 563, 28.1%) reported having received some type of PSS in the past 18 months, and an even larger percentage (n = 728, 36.3%) reported providing PSS during the same time period. Results from a cross-sectional survey reveal a solid percentage of U.S. adults exchanging PSS across many channels (e.g., face-to-face, social media) with a wide range of political phenomena sparking these communicative activities. Building on the survey’s gender and political-specific communicative dynamics, the second study, an online experiment, was conducted in October 2021. In the online experiment, a 2 (politician’s gender: male vs. female) x 2 (politician’s party identification: Democrat vs. Republican) x 4 (message levels) x 2 (citizen’s gender: Male vs. female) x 2 (citizen’s party identification: Democrat vs. Republican) between-subject design, provides a theoretical rationale on how the gender and the political identification in citizen-to-politician relationships are associated with the level of perceived social support. Results from the experiment reveal that the level of social support messages that include different numbers of social support components does not have an effect on the level of perceived PSS. However, the characteristics of politicians and the gender of politicians and citizens were significant in predicting the higher PSS. Theoretical and practical implications for the theory advancement and future research are explored.
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