As the semester comes to a close I have been reflecting on my first year as a SNaPP lab RA. I can certainly say that my experience in the lab has provided me with an incredible skill set that will surely come in handy throughout the rest of college but also in the real world. I collected data for the Obamacare Team, and have learned how to wade databases to find important information. I have developed a working knowledge of R that I will continue to build on. I have written a grant proposal, and developed my own unique research project. In addition to these tangible results, I have noticed myself developing better analytical and problem solving skills. Working in the lab has provided a wealth of opportunities to learn in a unique hands on way that adds allows me to learn by doing.
I also began work on my individual project this semester. My project aims to explore the relationship between bias newspaper coverage of the ACA and the corresponding newspaper readership’s ideology. Because of the generous funding from the Charles Center I will be able to continue work on my project throughout the summer! I will also be helping the Social Anxiety Team this summer by helping proctor their lab experiment. Overall, I have developed numerous new skill sets because of the SNaPP lab and this summer promises to an invaluable opportunity to get my hands dirty in a project that I have developed on my own! Below I have put a copy of my working abstract for my summer research project. I will continue to blog about my summer research experience on the Charles Center Summer Research Blog.
Working Abstract for Summer Research:
I will be studying the relationship between biased local newspaper coverage, and the political ideology of newspaper readerships. I will aim to answer the question: does biased local newspaper coverage of ideologically contentious legislation correlate with an ideologically biased newspaper readership? To explore this question, I will analyze newspaper coverage of the Affordable Care Act in California, Texas, and Florida. Using original data collected from newspaper articles written in August 2009 (the height of the healthcare debate) covering the Affordable Care Act, I will analyze the recurrence of ideologically charged key words. An abundance of specific ideologically biased keywords in an article will indicate the ideological biases of the publishing newspaper. Examples of these keywords are “ration” and “public option.” Throughout the healthcare debate, conservatives have emphasized the potential “rationing” of healthcare, while liberals have avoided the term because of its negative connotation. Therefore “ration” will likely appear more in conservative newspapers, aiming to highlight problems with the ACA and promote a conservative argument. The same concept applies to the keyword “public option,” a frequent element of the liberal argument in support of the ACA.
After determining the ideological biases of specific newspapers in Texas, California, and Florida, I will focus on understanding the relationship between these newspapers and the ideology of their readerships. I will analyze readership ideology by using local election results and DW nominate scores for representatives with districts that overlap with the readership area. By analyzing a liberal (CA), conservative (TX), and moderate (FL) state, I will better understand the relationship between local newspaper ideology and readership ideology across the American political spectrum.
Introductory Psychology, a class most all college students end up taking. A typical Intro class at William & Mary is anywhere from 75-200 students. Part of every intro psych course is the “required outside study participation”; in essence professors make their intro students participate in their own, their colleagues, or their grad/undergrad students psychology experiments. By requiring this of every psych student, the department is able to guarantee that they will have a large population from which to pull their experiment data, and they can get participants for free (because it is required by intro classes). But there has to be a catch, it can’t be this easy to get a representative sample of people to accurately extend the findings of an experiment to all of humankind!
Well, its not.
From personal experience I can tell you that sophomores at William & Mary are anything but a representative sample for the rest of the US. To say the least a T.W.A.M.P. (typical W&M person) is not a typical person. For one, William & Mary students are high-stress, high-strung, and very competitive. We as students live from deadline to deadline, trying to make it through the semester one paper at a time. We interact with other people our age with the exception of professors and the nice ladies that swipe ID cards at Sadler. We all live in a bubble.We see the world in 15 week intervals (semesters). Most of us we are still learning to live independently of our parents. We live in Williamsburg, an area with very little crime. We all have the same job, being students. And we can all speak at length about our own personal struggles to register for classes on Banner. Ultimately, the William & Mary student (or any college student for that matter) lives in a very unique time of life, a time of self discovery, independence, and transition into “adult” life which ultimately makes the college student population an unrepresentative sample.
Virginia’s Gubernatorial Election is right around the corner. The negative advertisements are all over TV, the candidates personal lives are being made evermore public, and soon, get-out-the-vote initiatives will be in full force. However there seems to be a general consensus amongst voters that neither candidate is the right man for the job. All tough frustrating, this election makes for interesting coverage by local news. I’m a native Richmonder and am familiar with the local paper’s (The Richmond Times Dispatch) practice of ALWAYS throwing their support behind a gubernatorial candidate. Thus I was interested when they announced (via this article http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/our-opinion/today-s-top-opinion-the-election-forgetting-by-the-election/article_6a2c5e41-20f3-561a-a25d-52eedf4741f3.html) that they “cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor”. All throughout the Summer and early Fall the Times has been quite negative towards both candidates but this has become the final nail in the coffin. The question remains, when a prominent local news paper says they will not support a candidate because they are disgusted with the options, will voters be effected? Will people go to the polls, will write-in votes become significant, will people take the election seriously?
This comes at a very interesting time for me personally. Working on the SNaPP Lab’s Obamacare project our team currently in the process of collecting local news paper data from all 50 states from August 2009 (during the heat of the health care debate) to see how local newspaper frames may shape public opinion. The case in The Richmond Times Dispatch will provide a sneak peak into this question, measured by voter turn out and election results. This year’s election will certainly be an interesting one, with strong political implications as well as an interesting case for those in political psychology.