In studying 'priming effects' - the process by which activated mental constructs can influence how individuals evaluate other concepts and ideas - political communication scholars have focused primarily on the frequency and recency of construct use in the accessibility of specific cognitions; less attention has been given to the spread of activation among related cognitions. Drawing from both of these research interests, we argue that media framing of issues in moral or ethical terms can prime voters to (I) make attributions about candidate integrity, and/or (2) evaluate other political issues in ethical terms. To examine these relationships, this research used the same experimental design with two sub-populations - evangelical Christians and university undergraduate students - expected to differ in the inter-connectedness of core values with political attitudes. A single issue, which varied in the types of values in conflict, was systematically altered across four otherwise constant political environments to examine priming effects. Findings suggest that future research should conceptualize priming more broadly to include considerations of both the accessibility of cognitions in short-term memory and the pathways among information in long-term memory.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by a Kriss Fund grant from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. The authors thank Sooyeon Yoo for research assistance, and William J. Gonzenbach and three anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this article.
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