Political Science 475, Fall 2008

Review Questions for Final Exam

Dr. Mark Peffley


Final is 50% of final grade, Midterm is 40% and Participation is 10%.


First question: would you rather prepare for 20 review questions or an infinite number of possible exam questions (i.e., no review questions)?


Ground Rules:   The exam will consist of approximately 30 multiple choice questions and 1 to 2 short essay questions. The review questions below are designed to focus your preparation on theories and concepts from which the exam questions will be selected and formulated. If you are prepared to answer these questions, you should do well on the exam. During the exam, you may not rely on notes. Bring both a # 2 pencil for the multiple choice questions and a ball-point pen and a blue book for the essay questions. Better essays will be organized and efficiently written.


The exam will cover class discussions (see Lecture Outlines posted on the syllabus); chapters 5-10 in Iyengar and McGrady’s Media Politics; chapters 5-14 in Jamieson and Cappella’s Echo Chamber; and chapters 1, 2, & 7 in Zaller’s A Theory of Media Politics.


Changes in review questions are in red.


Review Questions from class discussions:

1.       Define different types of media effects, being sure to distinguish between them and provide examples of each. Also, see Iyengar and McGrady for empirical studies of (and evidence for) these effects. 

2.       To what extent are citizens mindless “victims” of the media’s “primordial power” to influence citizens through such mechanisms as priming and framing?

3.       Outline a theory of strong media effects, using examples and pointing out some of its limitations.

4.       What is propaganda and what are some of the basic elements of making propaganda effective. How is its effectiveness limited in the U.S.?

5.       Outline the “minimal effects” view of media influence and the research it was based on, and provide a critical evaluation of this perspective.

6.       Briefly evaluate the major strengths and weaknesses of surveys and experimental methods of studying media effects. Which method of studying media effects is best, in your view?

7.       Drawing from class discussions, describe two studies (one by Gilliam and Iyengar, and another by Gilens) that use various methods to show how the news affects group stereotypes.  

8.       Thomas Patterson (not Larry Sabato) and John Zaller offer two very different explanations of patterns in news coverage. First outline three patterns of news coverage that Patterson identifies and Patterson’s explanation for them. Then use Zaller’s theory to explain those same patterns. Which explanation (Patterson’s or Zaller’s) do you think has more validity in your view? Why?

9.       Briefly outline Zaller’s theory of news coverage of elections, describing the actors’ goals, the three decision rules, and some of the major propositions derived. Then evaluate Zaller’s evidence for the Rule of Product Substitution and how this plays out in news coverage of elections. Why has news coverage of elections gotten more negative in recent years, according to Zaller and to what degree is the news media responsible?

10.    Contrast the “form” of Zaller’s theory to that of Patterson’s.  Also, how does Zaller’s coding of negative press coverage differ from Patterson’s?  Which is more valid in your view?

11.    Describe the evolution of “feeding frenzies,” according to Larry Sabato, as well as some of their causes and consequences.

12.    What is Lance Bennett’s theory of Indexing and how did it fare in Jonathon Mermin’s study of news coverage of post-Vietnam war military interventions? Generally speaking, how would you characterize the media’s role in covering war and military interventions. Explain.

13.     Describe some of the major elements of censorship in the first Gulf war and the primary objective of the censorship rules, as you see them.

14.    Provide a few examples of self-censorship among the media in its coverage of war, as well as war propaganda that we discussed in class. Why is the news media so constrained in its ability to present the other side, when it comes to military conflict?

15.    Criticism of media coverage during the Vietnam War has been used to justify strict censorship of the press when the U.S. engages in military actions (e.g., the Iraq and Gulf wars).  Drawing on our class discussion, to what extent was an independent and oppositional media responsible for “losing the war in Vietnam”? Explain. and to what extent did the role of the media in that war justify strict censorship in times of war or in military conflicts


Review Questions for Echo Chamber

1.       Based on your reading of “Effects of an Echo Chamber,” and class discussions, what are some of the special theoretical and methodological problems that J&C face in studying media effects of exposure to the CME, and what general strategies do J&C propose for dealing with these problems?

2.       In “Vetting Candidates for Office,” what (three) important functions do J&C argue the CME performs and what evidence do they provide for these media effects?

3.       In Ch. 8, J&C argue that Limbaugh’s constant attacks on Democrats create negative emotions in his audience, namely anger and moral outrage.  To what extent is this emotional reaction a rational or an irrational force among Limbaugh listeners and what is the authors’ evidence for their assessment?

4.       J&C argue that by framing and reframing media messages for their audience, as well as through priming of common terms and phrases, the CME insulates their audience from outside media influence.  How is this done exactly (give a few examples) and what evidence, if any, do J&C present on whether these strategies are effective?  Also, evaluate the evidence that listening to CME (e.g., Limbaugh) influences trust of mainstream media and exposure to it (see, e.g., Ch 10).

1.       One effect of CME that J&C examine is the “balkanization of knowledge and interpretations.”  What does this mean, exactly, and what is the evidence for it, according to the authors (give 3 examples)?  Who among Limbaugh’s listeners are most and least susceptible to this effect?

2.       Another effect of CME that J&C examine is “distortion and polarization.” What is this effect and how does it work—through what two mechanisms?  What is the evidence presented by J&C on this effect? How could the authors’ analysis here be improved?

Based in part on your reading of Echo Chamber, what are the major benefits and the costs of an echo chamber?   Overall, is it good or bad for democracy?


Review Questions for Iyengar & McGrady, chs. 5-10.

1.       Based on their review of studies of how people use the Internet to follow politics, what conclusions do Iyengar and McGrady reach, and what was the main lesson of the 2004 presidential election concerning the use of the Internet for political campaigning?

2.       What are the strategies and consequences of “riding the wave,”  “issue ownership,”  “wedge appeals,” negative ads, and direct mail?

3.       What are the main elements and consequences of the McCain-Feingold legislation?

4.       What is the strategy of Going Public and how has it changed over time?

5.       What are priming effects and how are they likely to have been important during election campaigns?

6.       What do Iyengar and McGrady find in their review of partisan differences in the acceptance of Iraq War messages, in the Appendix to Chapter 8?

7.       Describe the impact of the following in election campaigns: the reinforcement effect, swing voters, and momentum.

8.       Outline theories of presidential popularity and assess the impact of history and news management on presidential popularity.