POLITICS BY THE EYES OF STUDENTS: SOCIAL-PSYCHOLOGICAL FEATURES OF PERCEPTION
Published: Collected research articles, Bulletin of Russian Communication Association "THEORY OF COMMUNICATION AND APPLIED COMMUNICATION", Issue 1 / Edited by I.N. Rozina, Rostov-on-Don: Institute of Management, Business and Law Publishing, 2002. - 168 p. P. 21-28.
This article is devoted to the problem of study of social - psychological features of perception of a politician image in a student's audience during electoral communication. This is the analysis of the research results, carried out among the students of higher educational colleges of Samara. We examined the hypothesis about the influence of training specialization on the perception of pre-election television advertising.
As a rule, in the literature considering electoral process, the students are described as a whole electoral group, which has low activity and small interest in perception of the political information. However, the students, as a complex social - demographic society, consist of several specific subgroups, which can have their own features of perception of a political reality and specific attitude to it.
For studying this problem in January - June, 2002 the research was carried out. For it, there were enlisted 257 students from the Faculty of Journalism at Philological Department, and from the Department of History, both Samara State Teachers' University; from the Departments of Physics and Biology, Samara State University; and the Department of Heat Power, Samara Technical University.
The hypothesis of research was, that humanitarian and science training develop in the students specific skills of perception and processing information. So students of different specialization can perceive the characteristics of the same political figure in different ways.
All interrogated students were divided into two groups, according to the kind of information they mainly deal with during the course of training. In the first, "humanitarian" group, there were the students of History Department and Journalism Department. As the basic type of the information, which they study to process professionally, are the items of information about a man, its activity and reasons of its behaviour. This group was formed of 153 students (72,5% female and 27,5% male).
The second group had the students of Science and Technical specialisation. These were the students of Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Heat Power Departments, as in spite of the fact that the subjects they study concern different branches of scientific knowledge, the basic type of the information they receive, are the items which do not concern humanitarian sphere. This group had 104 students. (56,7% female and 43,3% male).
The procedure of research included the pre-election advertising film of one of the candidates for the post of the Mayor of Samara. The film was shown to the examinees. (Elections of July 2001). The presented film had the duration 1 min. 50 sec., and consisted of scenes representing the candidate in various situations. The film was commented by an announcer. The participants of research received the information on the biography of the candidate, his professional achievement etc. After watching this film the students were to make 20 statements to the question: "What is this candidate for you? ". The statements could be formulated as one word, a word combination, or a whole phrase. The participants of the research could give more than 20 statements, if they wished.
The described research was based on a similar work on study of the television announcers image, carried out in the 80-th of XX century by N. Bogomolova. [Bogomolova N., 1991]. And this author, in her turn, used the specially modified test "20 answers" by McPartland and Kuhn. [M. Kuhn, T. McPartland, 2000].
As the research was carried out in more than 6 months after the elections were over, and the candidate, whose advertising film was used had failed and completely disappeared from mass-media view, it is possible to assume with confidence, that the participants of research received the information mainly from advertising presented.
The following analysis of all received statements made it possible to divide them into several categories. First of all, the given statements show students' attitude to the applicant for the post of the Head of the city. And according to it, they were divided into positive, neutral and negative. According to this analysis, about 69% of all answers were neutral to the candidate, 19,7% of the statements were positive and 11,7% of the statements were negative. Thus, it is possible to determine the general attitude of the participants of research to the candidate, as more benevolent, than critical.
One more feature, according to which the received statements were divided, was the tendency of the analytical estimation in the attitude to received information. Some of the statements were based on the of simple reproduction of the received information, without any critical perception of its truthfulness or importance. The statements united in this group were named "descriptive-reproductive" and had 41,4% from all definitions of the applicant for the post of the Head of city. Here, for example, the statements about the age of the candidate, his previous occupations, his origin, partly about his achievements and merits, for example the candidate was referred as "the Head of the district", "born into the family of an officer" etc.
The other category of the statements was named "analytical". In this category there were the statements, in which students, in their definitions to the candidate, analyzed the information received from the film. And the variation of analysis of the received information was widest. For example, "the candidate worked in army - so he is used to order about", or on the contrary "an army man - means the man responsible, who is used to keep his word", or "an army man, that means he is blockhead, he is used to execute the orders, without thinking". But for the professional characteristics hypotheses about of the candidate, some of the "analytical" statements considered the assumptions of moral and psychological qualities of the candidate, about his marital status, and also concerned financial-political groups which could influence the candidate, in opinion of researched.
And, as has already been marked, the research was carried out in a large interval after the elections itself, so it is possible to assume, that the majority of the "analytical" group statements represent the hypotheses of the respondents caused by watching of the advertising film, not the reproduction of the information received from any other sources. Large quantity of the analytical answers (58,6%) shows that the students - who are traditionally considered as the group unwilling to perceive the information on political life of the society, nevertheless can rather actively analyze the received political messages.
One more way for classification of the received statements became their distribution according to the mentioned before method of N. Bogomolova, in her analyzing of an image of the television announcers. This classification included two categories: 1) role characteristics, including objective social - demographic; 2) individual characteristics, divided into the characteristics of appearance, functional characteristics of communicative behaviour and personal characteristics of the communicant. As in our case the object of the analysis was the candidate to the Mayors, not a television announcer, the classification of N. Bogomolova was modified. In particular the category "the communicative characteristics", suitable for the description of a TV-announcer, we had more common category "the professional characteristics" of the candidate as a politician, economic manager etc. (23,2% statements). The statements about professional qualities of the candidate and his skills (large capacity of work, ability to understand the problems of the voters etc.), and the descriptions of his previous actions (restoring sports grounds). Besides the category "the role characteristics" was named "status-role", that allows to specify essence of the included answers: " the Chapter of the Krasnoglisky district", "the Head of the fuel and energy complex of the Samara region", "the big boss" etc. The statements of this category in common has made 45,4 %. The categories "personal characteristic" (25%) and "the characteristics of appearance" (6,4%), offered in the classification of N. Bogomolova, have remained without change.
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