UA Honors Forum Assists 2016 Campaign Researchers

By Jane Incao

Razorback Reporter

University researchers and students are studying the influence of media coverage on broadcast audiences’ perceptions of presidential candidates.

Students taking the Honors forum Tracking Trump and Hillary assisted in a study of about 500 students’ perceptions of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton after the first 2016 presidential debate, Sept. 26.

The study, led by Professor Rob Wicks of the Department of Communication and Professor Patrick Stewart of the Department of Political Science, monitored the participants’ responses to the debate and collected surveys to measure political affiliation and trust of different news sources.

The study themes follow closely the honors forum that students are taking in class.

“We’re getting an in-depth view of how media can influence opinions – which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing – but how they can influence the common voter,” said sophomore Summer Stallbaumer, a student in the honors forum.

Stallbaumer said that because the course curriculum requires her to take a much deeper look into the policies that are discussed in media news coverage, Stallbaumer said, she is much more well-read and is able to “speak down the middle of the road” when it comes to discussing politics with her classmates.

Results of the study were to be released Oct. 3, Stewart said, adding that he hoped it will reveal whether exposure to different news network coverage interacts with participants’ own ideological leanings.

“We believe that in a year with such inflammatory rhetoric toward various ethnic and religious groups, understanding differences in audience interpretive processes is important,” Wicks wrote for the American Behavioral Scientist.