Abstract

Impeachment is a rather rare phenomenon, and thus is widely understudied. Specifically, there is a lack of research regarding the ability of the news media to affect public opinion toward impeachment. However, there is reason to believe the media plays a significant role in shaping attitudes on impeachment: the media greatly influences the general public and because elected officials are focused on re-election, they are inclined to listen to the general public’s views regarding salient issues such as impeachment. This independent study aims to holistically understand the implications of the media influencing public opinion with regard to impeachment. I hypothesize that as a result of either neutral or positive coverage, co-partisans of the President will hold positive attitudes toward the President or his political party and against impeachment, while members of the opposing party will continue to hold negative attitudes toward the President and his party i.e. supporting impeachment. When partisan independents are presented with neutral or positive coverage of an impeached president, I expect their evaluations to remain consistent with the general public’s opinion. To evaluate my hypotheses, I employ a comparative case study approach, specifically looking at President Clinton’s 1998 impeachment and President Trump’s 2019 impeachment. I combine content analysis of newspaper coverage with quantitative analyses of public opinion during these impeachments. Through the content analysis and difference of means tests, I find that there is in fact a relationship between polarization, media coverage, and views towards impeachment, driven by the tenor of media coverage throughout the various stages of the impeachment process.

Advisor

Muñoz, Avi

Department

Political Science

Publication Date

2021

Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

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© Copyright 2021 Alexa N. Mellis