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Image and Emotion in Voter Decisions

The Affect Agenda

Renita Coleman and Denis Wu

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Drawing on a decade of their own research from the 2000 to 2012 U.S. presidential elections, Renita Coleman and Denis Wu explore the image presentation of political candidates and its influence at both aggregate and individual levels. When facing complex political decisions, voters often rely on gut feelings and first impressions but then endeavor to come up with a “rational” reason to justify their actions. Image and Emotion in Voter Decisions: The Affect Agenda examines how and why voters make the decisions they do by examining the influence of the media’s coverage of politicians’ images. Topics include the role of visual and verbal cues in communicating affective information, the influence of demographics on affective agenda setting, whether positive or negative tone is more powerful, and the role of emotion in second-level agenda setting. Image and Emotion in Voter Decisions will challenge readers to think critically about political information processing and a new way of systematically thinking about agenda setting in elections. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 246Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-0-7391-8995-5 • Hardback • March 2015 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
978-1-4985-1403-3 • Paperback • August 2016 • $44.99 • (£29.95)
978-0-7391-8996-2 • eBook • March 2015 • $41.99 • (£27.95)
Renita Coleman is associate professor at the University of Texas-Austin School of Journalism.

H. Denis Wu is associate professor of communication at Boston University.
1 The Importance of Image and Affect in Politics

2 Historical Traces and Relevant Concepts

3 The Role of Information Processing

4 The Methods Behind the Research: How We Did These Studies

5 The Two Levels of Agenda Setting: Issues and Attributes

6 Visual Cues in the Formation of Affect

7 The Valence of Affect: Accentuate the Negative or Put Your Best Foot Forward?

8 The Makeup of Affect: Emotions and Traits

9 New Media and Demographic Differences in Agenda Setting

10 An International Investigation of Affective Agendas

11 What We Now Know About Affect and Implications for Democracy
From the perspective that elections should involve the rational evaluation of candidates’ issue positions, campaigns and voters that focus on images and emotions are generally disdained. But Coleman and Wu argue that candidate images and voter emotions are central to the electoral process because they stimulate voters to evaluate candidates. Previous research in political communication has focused largely on the first level of agenda setting (addressing issues), but in this book, the authors analyze the second level of agenda setting (addressing affect). This work is unique in two ways. First, it focuses on the visuals of candidates, rather than their words, and assesses them as positive or negative. Second, it measures the positive and negative emotions candidates engender in voters. In doing so, it measures the impact that mediated affect has on elections. The authors use a multi-modal approach that uses experiments as well as surveys that vary across time and location. The result is an overwhelmingly persuasive argument that the candidate images broadcast by various news media play an important role in the public agenda during elections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate, research, and professional collections.
CHOICE


"The book fills a gap in agenda setting literature, I highly recommend it."
Guy J. Golan, Syracuse University


This is an important addition to the agenda-setting and voting literature in several respects. It brings various theories of information processing to bear on agenda-setting research, and it emphasizes the role of visual content in agenda-setting effects. It also analyzes the relative strength of first- and second-level agenda-setting effects on voting behavior in one Taiwanese and four U.S. presidential elections. As such, this program of work represents probably the only longitudinal effort so far to examine visuals for their second-level agenda setting effects.”
David H. Weaver, Indiana University


Building on the cognitive approach prevalent in most political communication scholarship, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the role of visual information and emotion in news and its impact on voter decisions. It is a must-read for political communication researchers, educators, and professionals.
Spiro Kiousis, University of Florida


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