Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Pamela J. Kalbfleisch

Abstract

ABSTRACT

A good public image is important to everyone, but it is vital to political

candidates. Media content has been the focus of much research, but most centers on the candidate as an individual. This research explores media portrayals of the communication that occurs between a candidate and their spouse.

A content analysis of newsmagazine articles from September 1, 2010 to November 1, 2010 was conducted exploring concepts relating to candidate status, spouse's sex, gender roles and stereotypes, acceptance, and media ideology.

Only 8.82% of the articles contained instances of spousal communication. All of these communication events portrayed in the article were noncontroversial and verbal. In support of prior research this study also found that media ideology played a significant role in how the newsmagazines portrayed candidates and their spousal communication.

Contrary to expectations, the adherence to gender roles and stereotypes, although significant, did not result in perceptions of acceptance, but rather in rejection or non-committal latitudes. Another unexpected finding was that no newsmagazine articles covered incumbent candidates. This is due to a cultural/social event as a reciprocating influence, the emergence of the Tea Party.

The influence of the Tea Party resulted in relatively few incumbents on general election ballots and greater scrutiny of Tea Party candidates in the newsmagazine articles. This in turn resulted in no spousal communication events for incumbent candidates being present in the study.

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