Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Christopher Kenny


This study will focus on a specific election, the 1980 presidential race. Through an examination of the media coverage, key issues, and the candidates, this research will provide a context for the statistical analysis that follows. This research explores the impact of media and other determinants of candidate assessment and vote choice. The findings in this study not only support the argument that news affects elections but also clarify the exact nature of that influence. The research uses the theory of priming as its theoretical base. The American National Election Study Survey for the 1980 presidential election is the data set, and logit and regression analysis is the methodological approach. Results of the research indicate that medium influences the effect of priming. In other words, the format of news information matters. Television news exposure benefitted Reagan, and newspaper benefitted Carter. Furthermore, the interaction of ability assessments and media exposure primed respondents to a greater degree than the interaction of issue position and media exposure. Characteristics of the audience or receivers of media also influence opinions. These characteristics are socio-demographic factors like party identification, political interest, willingness to discuss politics, or education. The strength of their influence changes during the course of the campaign. In addition, the research finds that elections are fluid rather than static. As a result, opinions surrounding candidates and vote choice are likely to change as the campaign progresses. The interaction of the campaign and ability assessment appears to prime opinions more than the interaction of issue opinion and the progress of the campaign.