"Moral Referendums": Values, News Media, and the Process of Candidate Choice

David Domke, Dhavan V. Shah, Daniel B Wackman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Relatively unexplored in political communication research are the mental processes involved when political issues, particularly those framed by news media in moral terms, interact with individuals personal values in an electoral context. This study explored how the process of candidate choice is influenced by interactions between (1) individuals values and (2) news framing of issues in terms of contending values. Subjects were presented simulated newspaper articles about an election contest and asked to make a candidate choice. Across four otherwise constant political environments, a single issue which varied in the ethical dimensions emphasized was systematically altered to create parallel examinations of how voters process, interpret, and use issue information in choosing among candidates. Data from two differing subpopulations, evangelical Christians and undergraduate students, were gathered and pooled in analysis. Findings indicate that, in combination, an individual's interpretation of issues and news media framing of issues influence the type of decisionmaking process used, even after accounting for a variety of demographic, orientational, issue importance, and issue position variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-321
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1998


  • Construct Activation Decision Making Media Framing Motivation Moral Issues Values Voting Behavior


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