The authors would like to thank David Nickerson for his invaluable counsel in setting up our experiment and associated protocols, Geoff Layman, Carl Palmer, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier drafts, and all the graduate students at Notre Dame who helped with the administration of the experiment. Finally, we thank the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame for funding support that made this possible.
Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes†
Version of Record online: 18 NOV 2013
© 2013 by the Southwestern Social Science Association
Social Science Quarterly
Special Issue: New Perspectives on Political Participation
Volume 95, Issue 5, pages 1230–1244, December 2014
How to Cite
Adkins, T. and Castle, J. J. (2014), Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes. Social Science Quarterly, 95: 1230–1244. doi: 10.1111/ssqu.12070
- Issue online: 12 NOV 2014
- Version of Record online: 18 NOV 2013
Media effects research has generally ignored the possibility that popular films can affect political attitudes. This omission is puzzling for two reasons. First, research on public opinion finds the potential for persuasion is highest when respondents are unaware that political messages are being communicated. Second, multiple studies have found that entertainment media can alter public opinion. Together, this suggests that popular films containing political messages should possess the potential to influence attitudes.
We develop a laboratory experiment where subjects were randomly assigned to watch a control movie with no political messages, a movie with subtle political messages, or a movie with strong and explicit political messages.
We find that popular movies possess the ability to change political attitudes, especially on issues that are unframed by the media. Furthermore, we show such influence persists over time and is not moderated by partisanship, ideology, or political knowledge.
Our key findings suggest that a renewed scholarly interest in the political influence of popular movies is clearly warranted.