Day in the Life of a SNaPP Lab Researcher

When looking for a topic to conduct an individual research, I knew I wanted to look at the gender differences in politics. This is a large field in political science and my research could go in several different directions. Since I am a part of the online political discussion team within the SNaPP Lab and since many researchers have pointed to the rising importance of online political discussion to democratic deliberation (Papacharissi 2004), I decided to look at gender differences in online political discussion. The development of my research project has taken months; these months have been filled with Qualtrics programming, literature analysis, question formulation, experimental design, and even more Qualtrics programming. Along the way it was only natural for me to question my decision to look at gender differences in political science. I remember one time when I was getting particularly frustrated with the experimental design portion I decided to take a break and watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This episode just so happened to feature a beautiful segment called, “The Broads Must Be Crazy,” where Jon Stewart showed the double standard of evaluation of aggression and emotionality for women and men in politics. I remember laughing so hard when he pointed to newscastors criticizing Hillary Clinton for almost crying on television, yet when male politicians such as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner shed a few tears reporters deemed it an act of courage. Watching this segment on the Daily Show reminded me of the importance of my individual research project. The segment also reminded me of two articles which stuck out to me throughout the literature review process of my research: (1) Mendez and Obsborn, 2010 and (2) Herring 1993.

In the literature overall, I found that politics is subconsciously assumed to be a male dominated arena. Mendez and Osborn conducted a study to look at gender differences and perceived credibility within face to face political discussions. Mendez and Osborn used 1996 data in which individuals identified their objective knowledge of politics, the identity and gender of their main partner in political discussion, and their perceptions/beliefs about their partner’s credibility in political discussion. Mendez and Osborn (2010) found that both men and women who identified a woman as their discussion partner, perceived women as not having much political knowledge—even if the woman had the most objective political knowledge in the room (Mendez & Osborn 2010). Even when various factors are controlled—such as age, partisanship, and education level—women are perceived to be less credible in political discussion than men (Mendez & Osborn 2010). While this study applies to face to face political discussion, in online discussion boards there have been observed gender differences as well. In online discussion boards, women overall post less than men (Herring 1994). Critics may point out women are the ones holding themselves back and should just increase the frequency of their posting online. However it was found that when women participate equally in online discussion, women become censored as their postings are either ignored or delegitimized (Herring 1994). Also when women do post, their posts are significantly shorter than men’s and women are more likely to contribute to discussions of a personal nature rather than of issues (Herring 1994). When men introduce adversarial comments, women report being more concerned than men and are more likely to avoid the conversation all together than respond. However when women do respond to an adversarial comment, they are extremely likely to adopt a typically male, confrontational response (Herring 1994).

In my study I will be looking at similar things that Mendez and Obsorn, and Herring looked at within their research. By creating a fake facebook newsfeed conversation with one aggressor and one neutral, I will manipulate the gender of the aggressor and the neutral. This will allow me to look at how subjects rate credibility, argumentativeness, professionalism, and emotionality of both the aggressor and the neutral party across several different cells. The research design portion is almost over and I am in the final stages before the project is launched. Stay tuned as the data analysis portion of this experiment is coming soon.

Works Cited:
Herring, Susan. “Gender Differences in Computer-Mediated Communication: Bringing Familiar Baggage to the New Frontier.” (1994). Web.
Mendez, Jeanette, and Tracy Osborn. “Gender and the Perception of Knowledge in Political Discussion.” Political Research Quarterly 63.2 (2010): 269-79. Sage Journals. Web.
“The Broads Must Be Crazy.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comeday Central. New York, 22 Apr. 2014. Television.

The Twenty-Four-Hour News Cycle and You

We have all been personally victimized by the twenty-hour news cycle at one point or another; whether it is sitting in an airport and having to listen to outlandish theories spewed out by unqualified, attention-seeking newscasters to explain high profile court cases or sitting at home flipping through channels forced to hear a groundbreaking story about “Kimye’s” decision to purchase a black Range Rover rather than a white one.

The Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey of adults in the United States to analyze what channels average Americans are going to, to get their news at home. The data collected showed that while “local and network broadcast news maintained the largest audiences, it is national cable news that commands the most attention from its viewers” (Olmstead). This means while more people tune into their local and network broadcast news, the small few who tune into cable news are paying more attention to what information is being spewed at them than the local and network broadcast viewers. This reminds me of the classic collective action problem of the smaller groups of individuals being louder and more unified than larger groups of individuals. In terms of sheer numbers, local and network broadcast news take the cake. However when it comes to getting people to digest and potentially adopt the information newscasters spit out at them, cable news wins the gold.

Initially I was surprised by the results of this survey. I learned about how political scientists debunked the once-popular “minimal effects hypothesis” in my Intro to American Politics Class last semester. This led to a class discussion about the priming effects of the media and how the “infotainment” nature of cable news television has dire implications as it shapes the public’s conversation on what is happening around the world today. Learning this I suited up and hopped on the metaphorical slippery slope, assuming the average American was getting sucked into what CNN, Fox, or MSNBC were selling and slowly but surely he or she was turning into a mindless, robot of cable news leading to an apocalyptic final destruction of the United States.

While cable network news will always have the power to mold the types of questions people ask in the public discourse, there is something about local news that keeps the average American going back for more. This means the molding effect is not as widespread as one would like to believe. I can sleep easy knowing the average American is tuning into his or her local or network news channel and that apocalyptic destruction is not in the United States’ near future. So next time you are stuck in the airport with every single television blasting CNN, remember while you may be drawn into whatever provocative information Wolf Blitzer is saying in the Situation Room your local Channel 4 News Team is warmly waiting for you when you arrive back home.

Olmstead, K., Jurkowitz, M., Mitchell, A., & Enda, J., “How Americans Get TV News At Home.” Pew Research. October 11, 2013. Accessed March 25, 2014.