Message Desirability, Social Distance, and Real Influence: Testing the Third-Person Perception in a Gubernatorial Election

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This study (N = 311) tested the popular media psychology theory third-person perception in the context of a gubernatorial election. The study found a substantial negative linear correlation of the difference in perceived media influences on the self and on others with the message desirability (measured by individual perception of the message), which explains 37.5% of the variation of the third-person perception. The social distance corollary is tested in different dimensions. But only along the dimension of generality and when the stimulus is perceived undesirable a strong linear relationship between social distance and the difference in perceived influences is found. The third- or first-person perceptions that are shown when social distance is conceptualized in the dimensions of gender and ethnicity are not consistent with the theoretical expectations. Supporters of one candidate tend to think that people with no choice yet, rather than supporters of the other candidate, will be mostly influenced by the message. No evidence supports a relationship between the perceived media influences and the real media influences.


Elasmar, Michael G.


Marquette Books LLC



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