Despite tremendous changes in the American political system, the two major political parties continue to play an important role in mass political behavior. In this article we investigate how the medium of information presentation affects the likelihood that party images are activated and subsequently applied to process political candidate information. Conceptualizing party images as stereotypes, we use a two‐stage experimental design to test several hypotheses about stereotype processing under different information conditions. We find that television enhances the activation of party stereotypes for the more sophisticated, but inhibits activation for the less sophisticated. Once activated, however, partisan stereotypes are used in an information‐economizing way by both sophisticated and less sophisticated individuals to evaluate political candidates. However, television interferes with the ability of the less sophisticated to use policy information.
- Cognitive capacity
- Media effects
- Party images
- Political information processing
- Television impact