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Leading the Charge: Media, Elites, and the Use of Emotion in Stimulating Rally Effects in Wartime


  • Sean Aday

    Corresponding author
    1. Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
      Sean Aday; e-mail:
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Sean Aday; e-mail:


This study examines the relationship between media coverage, elite cues, and emotion in shaping public opinion about use of force. It utilizes data across three time periods: an experiment conducted in early 2005 during the Iraq War, National Election Studies data collected during the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, and NES data collected shortly after the U.S./coalition victory in the 1991 Gulf War. The study finds that contrary to conventional wisdom, media exert less influence on public opinion when they report negative or controversial news than when they reflect elite consensus and/or patriotic fervor. However, their importance is likely dependent upon the state of elite opinion, and thus media are best thought of as intervening variables between policymakers and the public.

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