Me, us and them: Political identification and the third-person effect in the 1993 Australian federal election



Three days prior to the 1993 Australian federal election 54 Australian university students who identified with one of the two major political parties were surveyed regarding their perceptions of media campaign impact on self and others. Results provided evidence of a third-person effect (Davison, 1983) wherein respondents judged others us more influenced by the election campaign than themselves. Consistent with predictions derived from social identity theory and self-categorization theory (e.g. Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher and Wetherell, 1987), political ingroup members were also judged as less injuenced by campaign content than political outgroup members. Respondents who identified strongly with their preferred party judged self and ingroup members as less influenced by campaign content than did other respondents, and showed more evidence of positive intergroup differentiation. At the same time, however, these respondents exaggerated self–ingroup differences, challenging the theoretical assumption that intergroup diferentiation is associated with ingroup assimilation. Judgements of media impact on self and other also depended on the direction of the campaign message. Respondents believed ‘voters in general’ were persuaded in line with the intent of campaign content, while outgroup members were seen to be persuaded by material favouring their own side but to be uninfluenced by counter-attitudinal content. Election propaganda, irrespective of direction, was seen to amplify existing party preferences in self and ingroup members. Hence the relative invulnerability of self to media impact was pronounced when respondents judged the impact of pro-outgroup messages. Results suggest that perceptions of self–other differences in media vulnerability are influenced by the subjectively salient social relationship between self and other, and are governed by motivational needs, such as self-esteem, social-identity, and differentiation from others (cf. Brewer, 1991; Hogs and Abrams, 1993).