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Voting for development

Associations among communication, efficacy, and voting

Gerardo Mariano


Ph.D. Development Studies

De La Salle University

DVS104D GS1 – Directed Research 4

Dr. Rizal Buendia

13 December 2010
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Abstract Previous studies suggest the predictive effects of communication

variables on civic literacy (political knowledge and inernal political efficacy) and
political participation. This paper explores the relationships among news
exposure, media reliance, political efficacy and voting. Philippine data from the
Comparative Survey of Democratization and Value Change in East Asia Project
(a.k.a. East Asia Barometer) were subjected to nonparametric tests for association.
Media reliance was found to be significantly associated with simple voting and
voting for the Administration candidate. Significant albeit weak correlations were
also noted between news exposure and one type of internal efficacy and voting
regularly. Another form of efficacy correlated significantly with voting regularly.

Key words news exposure; media reliance; political efficacy, political


In 1964, Lerner found high statistical correlations among urbanization, literacy, media exposure,

and political participation. Putnam (1993) identify voting and newspaper reading as two of four

indicators of civic community. Milner (2002) emphasized the need of making an informed choice

in linking political knowledge and political participation. In 2005, Mindich noted the same

strong connections between news exposure and participation, but said the growth of the suburb

as an obstacle to both exposure and participation.

The literature has ample evidence to supports the logic that exposure contributes to

knowledge which in turn drives participation. But there were variations. One is that exposure and

knowledge mutually affect each other. Another is that news exposure produces other effects that

contribute to political knowledge and participation. In addition, there were other factors cited

that resulted in knowledge and participation.


This paper looks examines the role of communication in empowering the voter into
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making the “right” choice at the polls, as opposed to something that is uninformed, haphazard

and arbitrary. Another literacy concept is political efficacy, focusing on the internal variety. This

paper looks into the relationships among communication variables, internal efficacy and political

participation. These communication variables are news exposure and media reliance. It also

adopts a very specific form of political participation, voting. Hence the question, “Is

communication (news exposure and media reliance) associated with internal political efficacy

and voting?”

This paper also asserts the following hypotheses:

H1 = that media reliance is not associated with simple voting (V1)

H2 = that media reliance is not related to voting for the Administration candidate (V3)

H3 = that news news exposure does not correlate with either form of efficacy (E1 and E2)

H4 = that news exposure is not associated with voting over time (V2), and

H5 = that efficacy is not linked with V2 voting.


News exposure – amount of newspaper article reading and TV news story viewing (Atkin
and Heald, 1976). Simple, or “flat,” exposure is complemented by news attention, the “mental
and perceptual focus on particular messages or stimuli to which one has been exposed” (Wei &
Lo, 2008). News exposure is behavioral while news attention is cognitive (Willnat & Aw, 2004).

Media reliance – primary source for political information from possible agencies and
interpersonal sources (Feldman & Kawakami, 2007)

Political knowledge – an individual’s ability to recall candidates’ names, personal

characteristics, and qualifications; to identify election issues and current campaign
developments; and to recognize connections between candidates and issue positions. (Atkin and
Heald, 1976); knowledge about government and political institutions (Andersen et al., 2002).
Related concepts were identified and described as follows:

Citizen competence – the ability to make informed choices between political

candidates (Popkin and Dimock, 1999)
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Civic competence – attitudes and skills required for effective governance (Soltan,

Citizen literacy – citizens’ knowledge of their political environment (Pattie &

Johnston, 2003)

Political literacy – the potential for informed political participation; also known as
political expertise, political awareness, and civic competence (Cassel & Lo, 1997).

Political information efficacy – qualification to participate in politics, being

informed about politics, good understanding about politics (Kaid et al. 2007a)

Political socialization – a developmental process by which children and adolescents

acquire cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors relating to their political environment
(Atkin & Gantz, 1978)

Internal political efficacy – the ability to participate in politics (Hoffman &

Thomson, 2009) and an ordinary person’s ability to understand politics and
government (Kenski & Stroud, 2006; Kavanaugh et al., 2008).

Political participation – voting, contacting, protesting, activism, board membership,

campaign work, campaign giving (Verba et al., 1993); Claggett (2006) adds communal activity,
particularized contact, political discussion, and passive cooperation as forms of political
participation. Blais (2000) describes turnout as either the percentage of citizens of eligible age
who vote or the the percentage of voters from the total number of registered voters.


The approach to this study draws from both journalism and political science. Kovach and

Rosenstiel (2001) believe that “the central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with

accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society.” Milner (2002) contends

that informed citizens can make optimal policy choices that in turn contribute toward sustainable

welfare-state outcomes (diagram below is from Milner, 2002, p. 4) . Milner views media use as a

potentially intervening variable. Kovach and Rosenstiel regard the press as more than that, as the

body that plays a key role in keeping citizens properly informed and therefore competent as they

exercise democracy when they go to vote.

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The literature describes the relationship among communication, literacy, and political

participation. Communication variables may be media-based, such as news exposure, media

reliance, and media attention. A commonly studied communication variable – political discussion

– need not involve media. Civic literacy takes on many forms like political knowledge and

efficacy, both of which have been substantially studied over the years. Political participation

covers electoral and non-electoral forms.

News Internal political

exposure efficacy

Media Political
reliance participation
This study will focus on news exposure, media reliance, internal political efficacy, and

participation in elections. At one level it will look into the direct effects of communication on

efficacy and participation; at another, how efficacy moderates the effects of communication on

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Internal political

exposure Political
Media participation


News exposure as predictor of efficacy and participation. There is substantial evidence pointing

to the relationship between news exposure and political knowledge. Chaffee & Frank (1996) said

it was rare to find a study in which newspaper reading was not a significant predictor of

knowledge, noting that persons actively seeking political information consulted print media more

than television even if TV news offered more information about candidates. Johnson-Cartee

(2005) says that for most people knowledge is contructed through the mass media. Norris (2002)

noted the consistently positive relationship between attention to the news media and political

knowledge, trust, and participation. A number of studies found significant evidence saying

exposure resulted in knowledge. Johnson et al. (1995), Mondak (1995), Jennings (1998), Miller

& Krosnick (2000), Pattie & Johnston (2003), Kim (2008), and Lee & Wei (2008) said

newspaper reading contributed to knowledge. Other studies found that exposure to various media

likewise predicted knowledge (Atkin & Heald, 1976; Lucas & Schmitz, 1988; Eveland et al.,

2005; Drew & Weaver, 2006; Jerit et al., 2006; Wei & Lo, 2008). Baum (2003) reported that
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even “soft news” influenced knowledge, although Prior (2003) noted that the effect was very

little. The new media likewise had the ability to affect knowledge (Kenski & Stroud, 2006),

although Kim (2008) was more reserved. Conway et al. (1981) suggested that the relationship

was reciprocal.

Work on media exposure and efficacy is not as copious. Most of them pointed to the

positive impact of newspaper reading on internal efficacy (Norris, 2000; Aarts & Semetko, 2003;

McCluskey et al., 2004; Lee, 2006; Tewksbury et al., 2008. Kaid et al. (2007) noted the ability

of political Web content to raise efficacy, whike Kenski and Stroud (2006) found that political

discussion had the same effect. On the other hand, Baumgartner and Morris (2006) observed how

the popular “soft news” program The Daily Show had a negative impact on efficacy.

Media exposure was also found to affect voter turnout. Newspaper reading was cited by

Garramone & Atkin (1986), Pattie & Johnston (2003), Zhang & Chia (2006), Lee & Wei (2008),

and Martin (2008). Other media contributors to turnout were TV news (Elenbaas & De Vreese,

2006), news Web sites (Tolbert & McNeal, 2003; Hansen & Benoit, 2005), soft news (Baum &

Jamison, 2006), and text messaging (Dale & Strauss, 2007).

Other studies concluded that media influenced both knowledge and voting: newspapers

(Feldman & Kawakami, 1991; Milner, 2004); TV news (Garramone & Atkin, 1986); “new”

media (Prior, 2005); or combinations of various media (Sotirovic & McLeod, 2001; De Vreese &

Boomgarden, 2006; Nisbet, 2008).

Media were also found to affect significantly other forms of political participation like

campaigning (Kim et al., 1991) and civic participation (Shah, 1988; Moy et al., 2005a; Hoffman

& Thomson, 2006; Nichols et al., 2006; Jeffres et al., 2007; Kim, 2007; Kavanaugh et al., 2008;
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Livingstone & Markham, 2008; Salzman & Aloisi, 2009)

Media reliance as a predictor of efficacy and participation. Faber et al. (1985) said that news

exposure was not the only measure of media experience. Feldman and Kawakami (1991) termed

it as simple exposure. Along with media attention, one’s primary source of information (media

reliance) been studied. In 1980, Miller et al. found that that TV and newspaper exposured

related positively to efficacy and participation among TV-reliant respondents. In 1988, Walker

found evidence that newspaper reliance raised undifferentiated efficacy. The others concluded

that reliance had no positive association with knowledge (Culbertson & Stempel, 1986) or did

not predict knowledge (Li & Jeong, 2003). Bowen et al. (2000) found that TV reliance led to

higher political powerlessness (the opposite of efficacy) and cynicism.

Research by Moy et al. (2005) found that reliance, through increased knowledge and

trust, raised non-electoral forms of participation.

Efficacy as Predictor of Participation. A number of studies found positive effects of efficacy on

participation (Finkel, 1985; Zimmermann, 1989; Morrell, 2003; Scheufele et al., 2003;

McCluskey et al., 2004; Karp & Banducci, 2008). Jian and Jeffres (2008) learned that internal

efficacy mediated the effect of job autonomy on various types of participation. On the other

hand, Wang (2007) found that efficacy did not predict participation, while Zhong and Chen

(2002) found a reverse relationship between internal efficacy and participation.

Internal efficacy had a .40 correlation with knowledge (Niemi et al., 1991), the impact of

on political participation is also documented. Larcinese (2007) noted the sizeable influence, “in

causal fashion,” of knowledge on participation, citing the important role media played in

influencing participation. Popkin & Dimock (1999) reported a positive correlation between
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knowledge and turnout. Mindich (2005) and Wattenberg (2008) share the same sentiment,

although their books did not use causal statistics to link the two variables.

Causes and Other Effects of News Exposure. A Filipino scholar explains that psychological needs

– the need for cognition and need to evaluate – motivate people to follow general news (David,

2009b) and is proposing a theory of motivational effects (David, 2009a). On the other hand,

exposure also resulted in political discussion (Garramone and Atkin, 1986), political efficacy

(McCluskey et al., 2004), political interest (Drew & Weaver, 2006; Livingstone & Markham,

2008), social capital (Shah, 1998; Jeffres et al., 2007; Kim, 2007).

Lee (2005) noted how conservative news promoted trust and reduced cynicism, while on

the other hand, Elenbaas & De Vreese (2008) said that exposure resulted in political cynicism.

Lee conceded that political talk show on both radion and TV, and the Internet led to cynicism.

Kaid et al. (2007a) reported political advertising did not produce increased cynicism, but

significantly raised political efficacy.

Other Predictors of Participation

Also found to affect participation are age (Franklin, 2004), benefits of voting (Filer &

Kenny, 1980); its costs (Niemi, 1976), mobilization (Michelson, 2006), education (Burden,

2009), political efficacy (Kaid et al., 2007a; Ikeda et al., 2008), family structure (Wolfinger &

Wolfinger, 2008), political interest (Esser & De Vreese, 2007; Klesner, 2009), political

discussion (Esser & De Vreese, 2007; Eveland & Hively, 2009); social structure (Scheufele et

al., 2004), trust (Shah, 1998; Moy et al., 2005b, Grönlund & Setälä, 2007), and skepticism (Henn

et al., 2007).

Franklin (2004) argued that lowering the US voting age to 18 was a mistake, although he

proposed lowering it further to 15, so that first-time voters would experience their first trip to the
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polls while they are still in school (p. 213).

Filer & Kenny (1980) presented evidence that turnout is up when the probability of

affecting the outcome rises, and goes down as the cost of voting increases.

According to Burden (2009), educational attainment helps predict turnout, but not

political knowledge: “Rather than the value added by college itself, perhaps it is simply the type

of person who attends and graduates from college that makes them more likely to vote.”

Concepts and theories advanced were the calculus of voting (Riker & Odershook, 1968),

the decision-theoretic analysis (Ferejohn & Fiorina, 1974), rational choice (Feddersen, 2004);

and the size, competition and underdog effects (Levine & Palfrey, 2007).

Riker & Odershook (1968) identified the positive satisfactions of voting:

the satisfaction from compliance with the ethic of voting. [A citizen socialized into
the democratic tradition will consider it positive when he votes and negative when
he does not];
the satisfaction from affirming allegiance to the political system;
the satisfaction from affirming a partisan preference. [The most important aspect
of voting for many voters].
the satisfaction of deciding, going to the polls, etc.; and
the satisfaction of affirming one’s efficacy in the political system (28).
Ferejohn & Fiorina (1974) apply the concept of maximum utility in which a person

estimates the probabilities of events and utilities of outcomes: “Each action is viewed as a lottery

with choice dependent on the expected utility of each action-as-lottery... The person sees himself

in each possible future state of the world and looks at how much in error each of his available

actions could be, given that state. Then he chooses that action whose maximum error over the

states of nature is least.” On the other hand, the maximin person determines the worst possible

payoff and chooses the strategy with the worst payoff. Maximin decision makers, they say, do

not vote.
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To Niemi (1976) many voting costs are exaggerated, and the benefits downplayed. In

fact, he says, voting is relatively costless in the sense of opportunity costs.

Feddersen (2004) said that in a large election, the probability that an individual vote

might change the election outcome is vanishingly small. If each person only votes for the

purpose of influencing the election outcome, then even a small cost to vote-like a minor schedule

conflict or mildly bad weather-should dissuade anyone from voting (p. 99). He cited the weather,

registration requirements, time required to think about the voting decision, and distance to the

polling place as factors that could encourage or discourage a voter from going to the polls.

Levine & Palfrey (2007) make three predictions: the larger the electorate, the lower the

turnout; elections expected to be close will register higher turnouts, and citizens supporting the

less popular option are more likely to vote.

Measures. News exposure was generally measured by determining the frequency of use

of the various news media: TV news, newspapers, news magazines, (Conway et al., 1981;

Garramone & Atkin, 1986) and the Internet (Lee & Wei, 2008); the types of programs consumed:

network, local, public TV and radio, news interviews, (Lee, 2005). Atkin & Gantz (1978), whose

respondents were school children, limited their study to frequency of exposure to national news

programs and the Saturday children’s news segments.

“Flat” exposure was enriched by media attention, which was measured by self-reported

assessments ranging from no attention to a lot of attention (Drew & Weaver, 2006).

Media reliance was a forced choice of which news medium was most often used (Leshner

& Thorson, 2000; Feldman & Kawakami, 2007).

Atkin & Gantz’s (1978) questionnaire consisted of 10 items reflecting concrete elements
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of the basic themes, personalities, and long-term news developments featured in news programs.

Conway et al. (1981) asked children 17 questions about political institutions, political

parties, and the electoral process, while Mondak (1995) also asked 17 items on current events,

campaign news, and the candidates’ policy positions.

Garramone & Atkin (1986) created a fundamental [political] knowledge index by

summing together eight items concerning historical facts or trends relevant to more current

events. To make a current events knowledge index comparable to the fundamental knowledge

index, they selected eight current news items to match as closely as possible those measured in

the fundamental knowledge index.

Lucas & Schmitz (1988) asked about both “general” or “background” information

(political geography, recognition of names of world leaders, long-term environmental issues,

etc.) and time-specific news events. In the latter case, they drew questions from news reports

prominently featured by the media within a 60-hour period preceding the survey.

Delli Carpini & Keeter (1993) pruned a 1991 National Election Study questionnaire that

initially asked 13 items on people, and party and civic processes, to five (party control of the

House, veto override percent, party ideological location, judicial review, the Vice President).

They said these five items were sufficient to measure knowledge.

There were also attempts to improve the scale, especially when some respondents resort

to guessing. Mondak (2001) says that providing “Don’t Know Responses” encourages such

responses, thus infusing the PK scale with a systematic error. But Sturgis et al. (2007) dispute

this, saying there was no problem with encouraging DK responses.

Internal political efficacy was determined by asking questions like “Sometimes

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presidential elections seem so complicated that a person like me cannot really understand what is

going on” (Kenski & Stroud, 2006; Kavanaugh et al., 2008) and “I consider myself well

qualified to participate in politics” (Hoffman & Thomson, 2009).

Methods Used. Secondary data were used in most of the studies, while a smaller number

obtained primary data from phoned and face-to-face interviews.

Most of the studies employed various forms of statistical regressions that allowed the

authors to claim causality: linear, multiple, logit, logistic, hierarchical, OLS, GLS, path analysis.

A few employed correlations and analysis of variance. Qualitative methods were used in just two

studies (Bufachi, 2001; Kiba, 2010).


This paper used Philippine data collected by the Social Weather Stations (2005) from a

sample of 12,000 respondents, for a the East Asia Barometer, an eight-nation study of

democratization in East Asia. The survey had data on communication, political literacy and

political participation.

News exposure was measured using a five-point scale (from “practically never” to

“everyday”), while media reliance consisted of a forced choice (“the most important” source of

information) from various mass media.

Efficacy was measured by two questions using a four-point attitudinal scale (E1: “I have

the ability to participate in politics”; E2: “Sometimes politics and government seems so

complicated that a person like me can’t really understand what is going on”). The second

question was phrased in the negative and used reverse-scoring. A dummy variable was created to

reflect the actual direction of efficacy. E1 and E2 correlated (r=.06, n=1200, p=.05) but were
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retained because the coefficient was not that strong.

There were three types of voting data. One (V1) asked simply whether the respondent

voted in the last election. Another (V2) asked how regularly the respondent had voted since

becoming eligible to vote (from “hardly ever voted” to “voted in every election”). A third (V3)

asked whether the respondent voted for the Administration candidate.

Data on informal political discussion, trust in the national government, interest in politics,

educational attainment, and monthly household income were also included in the analysis. They

were all measured using ordinal scales.

Nonparametric tools were used to test for associations among the variables. Chi squares

were obtained for the nominal data (media reliance and V1 and V3 voting). Spearman’s rank

order correlations were computed for news exposure, V2 voting, and both types of efficacy.

Discussion, trust, interest, education, and income were included in the correlation matrix.


The sample was split evenly among the sexes, and average age was 43. Because the

youngest respondent was 17, and the first age category ranged from 17 to 24, it could be inferred

that at least 90 percent of the respondents were of voting age in regular elections (Table 1).

Nearly 90% had monthly household incomes belonging to the two lowest quintiles (Table 2). In

fact, two-thirds of the sample were from the lowest income group. In terms of education, more

than half of the sample had completed at least a vocational or technical high school, although

degree holders only represented 15 percent (Table 3a). More than two-thirds spent no more than

10 years in school (Table 3b).

Almost half said they followed political news on a daily basis and the mean (2.829 on a
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0-4 scale) reflects frequent exposure to news (Table 4). Reliance on TV for political information

was highest, at 84% (Table 5). Radio was cited by almost half of the respondents as their primary

source of news. The newspaper was third. The Internet was hardly a factor.

Internal efficacy scores were low (average: 1.087 on a 0-3 scale; Table 6). On the other

hand, voter turnout was a high 82% in the 2004 election, in which more than 80% of the vote

was nearly split between two candidates. The winning candidate, Gloria Arroyo (representing the

Administration), led Fernando Poe by a narrow 4%. Nearly two-thirds said they voted in every

election since they became eligible (mean 2.411, on a 0-3 scale; Table 7).

While 60% had little to no trust in the government (mean 1.273 on a 0-3 scale) and

interest in politics was moderate (mean 1.425 on a 0-3 scale) (Table 8), more than three-quarters

of respondents nonetheless discussed politics with their family and friends occasionally to

frequently (mean 0.868 on a 0-2 scale; Table 9).

The cross-tabulations (Tables 10 & 11) show that media reliance is associated with V1

and V2 voting. The chi square for reliance and V1 (χ2[2, n=598]=5.32, p=.070) is greater than the

critical value of 5.02 at p=.025, although the actual probability is higher. Still, this is reasonable

ground to reject the null hypothesis (H1). The chi square for reliance and the Administration vote

is even higher (χ2[2, n=460]=28.39, p<.0001), a compelling reason to reject H2.

The correlation matrix (Table 12) suggests a positive and significant correlation between

news exposure and E1 efficacy (r=.07) and voting over time (V2 r=.10). In turn, only one kind of

efficacy (E2) correlated significantly with V2 voting (r=.06). These suggest that the more people

follow the news, the more regularly they vote and that they have a higher sense of an ability to

participate in politics, although not in linear fashion. Also, respondents tended to vote regularly
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if they had a grasp of what was going on in government and politics.

News exposure likewise found to correlate positively with political interest (r=.23),

education (r=.16) and income (r=.12). On the other hand, it correlated negatively with discussion

(r=-.16) and trust in the national government (r=-.12). This means that the more people followed

the news, the less they discussed politics. This could also be viewed as people discussing politics

more as they followed the news less. In other words, they were compensating low exposure with

discussion. Similarly, lower efficacy (E1) brought about more discussion (r=-.06) although E1

went hand in hand with interest. Aside from news exposure, E2 efficacy was found to correlate

significantly with V2 voting (r=.06) and interest (r=.08).

Discussion returned a number of negative coefficients with exposure, E1 efficacy

(r=-.06), interest (r=-.25) and education (r=-.07). While this could be seen as people discussing

politics less with increased exposure, efficacy, interest, and education, this could also mean that

those with less exposure, efficacy (E1), interest, and education were discussing more. While

discussion did not correlate significantly (in fact, slightly negatively) with V2 voting, it can be

argued that by substitution, those with less exposure, efficacy, interest and education discussed

more, and because discussion correlated with V2 voting, therefore voted more regularly.


There is basis to reject H1 and H2 [details in the paper] and say that media reliance is

associated with V1 and V3 types of voting. Likewise , H3 and H4 can also be rejected based on

the significant correlations between news exposure and E1efficacy, as well as exposure and V2

voting. However, H5 can only be partially rejected as E1 efficacy did not correlate significantly

with voting, although E2 did.

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For the large part, communication is linked with both efficacy (E1) and all types of

voting, and efficacy (E1, but not E2) with V2 voting. While these conclusions are consistent with

the general literature, which in fact asserts causality among and between these variables, this

paper stops at associations. Because of the nonparametric nature of data, no further testing can be

performed beyond chi squares for nominal data and correlations for the ordinal.

[I need to firm up my last statement: how these associations connect with the idea of

voting for development.]


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