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Rushed to Judgment

Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior

David C. Barker
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  • Book Info
    Rushed to Judgment
    Book Description:

    Convenient, entertaining, and provocative, talk radio today is unapologetically ideological. Focusing on Rush Limbaugh -- the medium's most influential talk show -- Rushed to Judgment systematically examines the politics of persuasion at play on our nation's radio airwaves and asks a series of important questions. Does listening to talk radio change the way people think about politics, or are listeners' attitudes a function of the self-selecting nature of the audience? Does talk radio enhance understanding of public issues or serve as a breeding ground for misunderstanding? Can talk radio serve as an agent of deliberative democracy, spurring Americans to open, public debate? Or will talk radio only aggravate the divisive partisanship many Americans decry in poll after poll? The time is ripe to evaluate the effects of a medium whose influence has yet to be fully reckoned with.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50421-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, Technology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    We Americans are changing the way we gather political information. Perhaps due to our increased access to information and due to changes in lifestyle, we increasingly seek information that can be obtained conveniently, that doubles as entertainment, or that provides a perspective with which we sympathize. Thus while millions of Americans still peruse a daily newspaper and/or religiously view the evening network news, millions more bookmark their preferred political websites, watch political news magazines on cable television, or tune in to talk radio during their daily commutes. Such growth in usage of “new media” (Davis and Owen 1998) may have...

  7. 2 Political Talk Radio and Its Most Prominent Practitioner
    (pp. 14-29)

    Chapter 1 reviewed the exhaustive literature in political communication that deals with persuasion, emphasizing media effects. A large body of research now points to the conclusion that media effects are more “fugitive” than minimal—meaning they are out there, just hard to find (e.g., Bartels 1993; Page, Shapiro, and Dempsey 1987; Dalton, Beck, and Huckfeldt 1998). The search has often been confounded by reliability and validity challenges. Not only should we raise a suspicious eyebrow toward self-reports of media exposure, because social desirability encourages survey respondents to inflate the attention they pay to political news (Weisberg, Bowen, and Krosnick 1989),...

  8. 3 Toward a Value Heresthetic Model of Political Persuasion
    (pp. 30-55)
    David C. Barker, Kathleen Knight and Christopher Jan Carman

    Before we can properly assess the degree to which talk radio may persuade listeners to think and behave in predictable ways, it is necessary to understand the ways in which such persuasion may occur. Given that democratic politics revolves not around coercion of the public but rather around the struggle to persuade others that one choice is better than another, understanding the dynamics of this struggle is fundamental to any meaningful understanding of modern politics.

    The previous chapters introduced heresthetic as a theoretical construct distinct from traditional rhetoric, reviewed its treatment in the literature (primarily from a framing/priming point of...

  9. 4 Talk Radio, Public Opinion, and Vote Choice: The “Limbaugh Effect,” 1994–96
    (pp. 56-74)
    David C. Barker and Kathleen Knight

    The previous chapters introduced talk radio as a medium indicative of the “new media,” examined message content, and tested hypotheses about the relative persuasibility of different oratorical strategies that message senders may employ in trying to win over an audience. We found that value heresthetic, or the framing of a debate in such a way so as to prime considerations based on core democratic values, may be a particularly useful means of achieving persuasion, particularly when an audience is sophisticated or predisposed to distrust the message source. These findings were made possible through content analysis and carefully controlled experiments manipulating...

  10. 5 Talk Radio, Opinion Leadership, and Presidential Nominations: Evidence from the 2000 Republican Primary Battle
    (pp. 75-91)

    Chapter 4 explored whether habitual consumption of “new media” may result in induced political choices. Specifically, I examined the extent to which the empirical association between regular listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio program and political conservatism can be attributed to persuasion effects. The primary competing explanation, of course, is that the causality is reversed—listening is a function of conservatism, not the other way around. Results provided strong support for the notion that opinion leadership over the radio airwaves is real; it seems that Limbaugh does induce his audience to be more conservative over time. But many observers might...

  11. 6 The Talk Radio Community: Nontraditional Social Networks and Political Participation
    (pp. 92-105)

    Governmental outputs often reflect expressions of popular will (Page and Shapiro 1983; Wlezien 1995). But “popular will” depends largely upon the profile of the participatory public. Thus if contextual forces facilitate participation by individuals of one ideological bent while stifling participation by others, then the public profile becomes lopsided. As a consequence, governmental outputs will disproportionately reflect the more-participatory ideology. This chapter examines persuasion as it relates to influencing individual participation. Much research has demonstrated that an individual’s propensity to participate in politics is largely determined by the degree to which that person believes he or she can make a...

  12. 7 Information, Misinformation, and Political Talk Radio
    (pp. 106-118)
    C. Richard Hofstetter, David C. Barker, James T. Smith, Gina M. Zari and Thomas A. Ingrassia

    One of the theoretical foundations for democracy is an informed citizenry. Much research has considered the extent to which the American electorate possesses the requisite sophistication to execute republican government (Converse 1964; Nie, Verba, and Petrocik 1979; Smith 1989). Many have concluded that although the majority of Americans may not be terribly informed, the uninformed take cues from the smaller percentage of sophisticated “opinion leaders” (Katz and Lazarsfeld 1964; Zaller 1992). However, fewer scholars have considered the ramifications of a misinformed citizenry. Misinformation, or erroneous understanding, differs dramatically from simple ignorance, or the lack of understanding. Often, the misinformed may...

  13. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 119-128)

    This book has examined what might be termed the DNA of democratic politics—persuasion. Essentially, I have sought to understand how this democratic DNA is formed. In mapping this political genome, I have analyzed political behavior in its various forms—attitudes, candidate appraisals, policy preferences, partisan attachments, value orientations, vote choices, participation decisions, and belief structures. Each of these behavioral elements involves some kind of judgment. A democratic citizen is constantly engaged, asking herself, “Does that idea make sense? Which candidate do I prefer? What do these parties stand for? What is more important to me? Should I vote in...

  14. Appendix A. The Limbaugh Message
    (pp. 129-130)
  15. Appendix B. Excerpts from the Rhetoric Stimulus
    (pp. 131-132)
  16. Appendix C. Excerpts from the Value Heresthetic Stimulus
    (pp. 133-134)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 135-140)
  18. References
    (pp. 141-156)
  19. Index
    (pp. 157-166)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-168)