This paper was presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and
Mass Communication in San Antonio, Texas August 2005.
If you have questions about this paper, please contact the author
directly. If you have questions about the archives, email
rakyat [ at ] eparker.org. For an explanation of the subject line,
send email to
[log in to unmask] with just the four words, "get help info aejmc," in the
body (drop the "").
First-time Eligible Presidential Voters' Perceptions of Politics,
Patriotism, and Media
Jacqueline M. Eckstein, M.A.
University of Oklahoma
Department of Communication
610 Elm Avenue, Room 101
Norman, OK 73019-2081
[log in to unmask]
Miglena Daradanova, M.A.
University of Oklahomaf
Department of Communication
610 Elm Avenue, Room 101
Norman, OK 73019-2081
[log in to unmask]
Peter J. Gade, Ph. D.
University of Oklahoma
College of Journalism and Mass Communication
860 Van Vleet Oval
Norman, OK 73019
[log in to unmask]
Paper submitted to the Mass Communication and Society Division of the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 2005
Convention, San Antonio, TX
First-time Eligible Voters 0
This Q-methodology analysis seeks to help explain the attitudes of a
large and important group of the political electorate—first-time
presidential voters. This cohort, also called Generation Y by
scholars and social pundits (Klinger, 1999; Morton, 2001;
Shepherdson, 2000), is the largest group of first-time presidential
voters in U.S. history (Rosenberg, 2004). In this study, 61 subjects
(self-identified first-time eligible, voters at a mid-size
Midwestern, American university) sorted opinion statements about
politics, patriotism and media during the week prior to the 2004
presidential election. The resulting Q sorts revealed 4 factors and
indicated four distinct types of thinking among participants.
First-time Eligible Presidential Voters' Perceptions of Politics,
Patriotism, and Media
An estimated 13 percent of the American population eligible to vote
in the 2004 Presidential Election was between 18 and 24 years old
(Quick Facts, 2004). This group is composed of over 25 million young
voters (McDonald, 2005), 14 million of whom had never before cast a
ballot (CIRCLE Staff, 2004, p. 1) yet they were predicted to play an
important role in deciding the American presidency between
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and incumbent George W. Bush
(Rosenberg, 2004). These first-time voters are important to study for
several reasons. The group represents the first wave of what has been
called Generation Y, the largest mass of young people since the Baby
Boom generation ascended in the 1950s. Generation Y (born roughly
between 1977 and 1994) are expected to "transform every life stage
they enter" (Paul, 2004) because of their sheer mass (Fetto, 2003;
McManus, 2004). Generation Y has grown up closely watched by their
parents; they have unprecedented wealth and access to technology and
media (Gardyn, 2000, 2003; Howe & Strauss, 2000). The World Trade
Center bombings have put this cohort in the environment of wartime
political discourse and patriotic sentiment. This group is uniquely
marked as the 9/11 Generation (Kantrowitz, et al., 2001). Now,
ascending to young adulthood, 77 percent of the casualties in the
Iraq war are from this cohort (Forces, 2005). This paper seeks to
understand what types of attitudes some of these young Americans had
at the time of the 2004 presidential election, and asks "How did
first-time voters integrate their perceptions of politics,
patriotism, and media coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign?
Political Participation. Much has been written on political
participation (Downs, 1957; Olson, 1965) and its connection to media
use (Volgy & Schwartz, 1984). Brady, Verba, & Schlozman (1995)
suggest that people vote because of a belief in the ability to affect
political change toward the public good. Early studies suggest that
members of Generation Y value greatly their right to vote, however,
as a group they are not regular voters. The odds that a 21-year-old
will vote in the 2004 presidential election were estimated at 1 in 3
(Leo, 2003; Rosenberg, 2004). The University of Maryland's Center for
Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement reports that
since 1972, the first presidential election year after the voting age
was lowered to 18 from 21, election participation among 18- to
24-year-olds has fallen from 52 percent to 37 percent in 2000. That
15 percent decline compares to a 4 percent decline in voting among
Americans overall (Rosenberg, 2004).
In contrast, attitudes among members of Generation Y about the virtue
of voting are extremely positive. A study conducted for American
Demographics posed questions to 257 respondents aged 18 to
29. Ninety-seven percent of respondents said that it was important
for citizens in a democracy to vote. Of those claiming they would
"likely vote," close to 37 percent said they believed it was "their
duty as a citizen" (Rosenberg, 2004). However, many young people see
voter registration as an obstacle to voting. A survey of 18-year olds
not registered to vote revealed that many feel they don't know enough
about the issues and candidates to register or vote (Youth Vote,
2004). In addition, the likelihood of voting for Generation Y may be
weighted by a cynical view of the political system. A survey by the
marketing research firm Zogby International (Rosenberg, 2004) found
that 35 percent of Generation Y says that their vote matters
"somewhat" or "not at all." Fewer than half (48 percent) think that
it matters "very much" (p. 18). Democrats are less likely than
Republicans to think that their vote counts (54 percent to 72 percent).
Demographic studies suggest that Generation Y members do not see
their interests reflected in the traditional two-party political
system, and many identify themselves as political independents
(Rosenberg, 2004). Younger independent voters tend to identify
themselves with third parties, such as the Libertarians and the Green
Party, than their older counterparts (Murphy, 2004). Murphy (2004)
further reports, Ethical issues seem most pronounced among younger
independents. Forty-three percent of those ages 18 to 24 say that a
presidential candidate's personal "moral integrity is more important
to them than jobs" (p. 21).
Patriotism. The concept of patriotism is not easily discussed or
defined. At its simplest level it relates to one's loyalty to one's
country. The extent to which this loyalty should reach is a point of
controversy among scholars of political science and philosophers.
Zelinsky (1988) contends that patriotism is an affection extended to
our families, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens of the immediate
community. It does not, however, stretch to cover the political
organization of the country. That kind of love he calls nationalism
(p. 4). Nathanson, however, writes that patriotism involves a set of
attitudes that include: (1) a special affection for one's own
country, (2) a sense of personal identification with one's own
country, (3) a special concern for the well-being on one's country
and (4) a willingness to make sacrifices to aid or protect one's
country (p. 114). In this view, patriotism extends beyond love of
immediate family, friends, and community. Duffee (2003) describes the
roots of the word, concluding that the notions of private love and
public, or political, loyalty are intertwined in the concept of patriotism:
Patriotes, Greek for "a native, an inhabitant," derives from patrios,
by one's ancestors." … One loved what one's forefathers had bequeathed to one,
loved their way of life and their gods, and intended to defend one's
against all opposition. Hence the patriot was a conservative roused
to action in
defense of tradition inseparable from his own identity. He preferred death to
defeat because in defeat he would lose himself anyway; he'd be enslaved or
forced to betray what he loved. Hence, attached to the idea of patriotism were
the inseparable will to victory, the dogged refusal to compromise, and the
willingness to risk everything—for the patriot felt he embodied the will of his
ancestors, and even if everything else were lost, so long as he remained
unconquered, he could reconstruct his homeland from his heart (p. 429).
Webber (2003) asserts that the creation of modern day American
patriotism occurred during World War I, Prohibition, and the New Deal
years. He points out that these periods resulted in American
"state-led patriotism, a demand by national elites that citizens
comply with a particular vision of the nation that was often narrow,
racist and militaristic, [and] came into conflict with broader,
inclusive and egalitarian ideas of what the nation should be" (p. 412).
De Figueiredo Jr. and Elkins (2003), however, draw a distinction
between patriotism as a term indicating positive affect toward one's
patria, or national community, and nationalism as a comparison with
other countries in which your own country always comes out on top (p. 178).
When writing about patriotism, questions of specific cultural
morality are posed against universal ethical principles. MacIntyre
(1995), for example, insists that patriotism presumes greater
devotion to one's country than to anything else in the world, because
one of the greatest implications of being a patriot is being ready to
die for your country. This willingness to sacrifice your life would
be an undesirable situation if patriotism were equated with what
MacIntyre calls "liberal moralism," or caring more for a universal
morality, rather than the one espoused by the government of your
country. Martinot (2003) introduces the terms support-patriot (as in
"support our troops") and oppositional patriot to indicate the two
camps that America seems to have divided into: the people who insist
that the government should be unquestioningly supported in times of
war, and the people who feel that the war and the government should
be questioned at all times on general moral grounds (p. 407). It
seems however, that for young people between 18 and 25 who were
"forced to grow up" by the September 11 events, questioning the
government is not a priority for first-time voters (IWF Polls College
Students, April, 2004).
Although some authors do not agree, patriotism often suggests
superiority of one's country over all the rest. Patriots often
express the ideas that their country is superior to all others,
divinely chosen, or "a special people" (Nathanson, 2002, p. 89).
Webber (2003) explains that historically this idea is rooted in
watershed events such as big wars (e.g. the Civil War, World War II)
and millennium landmarks that often are subjects to religious claims
of greatness (p. 411). The assertion that the United States is unique
and destined to test the moral goodness of democracy begins with the
Founding Fathers and is based on the fact that the country did not
come together by the nature of ethnic groupings, or by the sword of a
conqueror (McClay, 2003, p. 39). Rather, it was the embodiment of an
idea-inspiration, a great social experiment whose success seemed to
be proof of a benevolent God who loved freedom, individualism, and equality.
Webber (2003) claims that today's sense of American patriotism didn't
begin to appear until after the Civil War (p. 411). Before that,
Americans lacked many common bonds and tended to align themselves
with their local affinities. Traumatic events in history such as
wars, calamities, or more recently, terrorist attacks, created the
need for defining the nation by asking the ultimate question of
identity: Who are we? Such times call for clear, often simplified
visions of identity and purpose of a nation (McClay, 2003, p. 38).
Media Use. Unarguably, the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 is
the defining moment for Generation Y, now called by many as the "9-11
Generation" (Kantrowitz, et al. 2001). However, authors agree that it
is too soon to apprehend the full impact that 9-11 has had on people
who were youngsters at the time (French, 2002; Fetto, 2001; Silke,
2003). Still, it may be possible to learn much about Generation Y
from earlier historic events. Since the Columbine and other school
shootings of the late 1990s, for example, members of Generation Y
report being "more careful about personal safety," and they have
grown distrustful of mass media offering "interpretation of their
personal lives" (Paul, 2001, p. 44). As a result, they have grown
more conscious of issues of privacy and the protection of
information. A 2004 survey of 112,000 students about their views on
First Amendment issues found that 1 in 3 high school students say
that the press has too much freedom and ought to be more restricted
(Yalof & Dautrich, 2005). Historically, normative concepts of the
press and its functions range on a continuum between absolute freedom
and absolute control. Press freedom has been traditionally defined by
media ownership (private or government), stage of national
development, and the relationship between the government and media
(restrictive press laws or lack of them) (Merrill & Lowenstein, 1979;
Siebert et al., 1956). The American press system has traditionally
been associated with the libertarian system, in which the press is
privately owned, helps support a free marketplace of ideas and acts
as a check on government; the press is largely uncensored, except for
government regulations on obscenity, wartime sedition, and so forth
(Siebert et al., 1956). In 1947, in response to growing media
consolidation and the fear that a great amount of power was in the
hands of a vested few, the norm of journalistic social responsibility
was first articulated by the Hutchins Commission (Nerone, 1995;
Rivers and Schramm, 1969). Social responsibility dictates that the
press assumes the responsibility to serve as a place for public
discussion, and government can interfere and sanction content in case
the press shirks its duties (Siebert et al., p. 7). Although the
concept of social responsibility is supposed to be defined by
journalists themselves and not imposed by external forces, public
opinion is often critical of the media and demands that the public or
government are entitled to some level of control (Rivers and Schramm,
1969, pp. 46-55). The paradox of having both free and responsible
press is often overlooked. (Merrill et al., 2001, p. 123). Therefore,
one of the concerns of this research is whether first-time voters
consider that the media should be responsible for presenting
political information and presenting it in a certain way, or that
they should be free of public and government control when it comes to
In summary, research shows Generation Y – many of whom were
first-time presidential voters in 2004 – is skeptical about politics
and the two-party system. Despite its declared interests in voting,
this cohort has voted at lower levels than the older population. This
group also has different media habits than older voters, including
limited interest in news and less reliance on traditional mass
media. Furthermore, this group has been shown to question the
validity of many social institutions, including the mass media.
Patriotism is an important concept to this generation, as 9-11 is
considered a defining experience in their lives. Despite its
disengagement, this cohort creates a potentially powerful political
force, which in the months prior to the 2004 election was perceived
to have the impact to swing the election. As a result, this study
attempts to understand the "types" of first-time eligible
presidential voters that exist among a population of university
students who belong to Generation Y. This inquiry includes a
relatively unstudied concept—patriotism—in an attempt to see how this
cohort integrates its attitudes toward this key issue in the 2004
election with those of politics and media.
In this Q-Methodology study, 61 subjects (self-identified first-time
eligible presidential voters at a large Midwestern university) sorted
42 opinion statements during the 8-day period between Oct. 25, 2004,
and Nov. 2, 2004, about politics, patriotism and media. These
statements were selected from the popular and scholarly media to
represent various viewpoints about these concepts (Stephenson, 1988).
Participants were given packets that included a concourse of 42
stimulus statements and instructions for them to sort the statements
according to their degree of agreement or disagreement and record
their responses on a forced-distribution grid that resembles a normal
bell-shaped curve (Brown, 1993). Participants were also instructed to
model their attitudes of mind as they would describe them, "not as
(psychologists or onlookers) infer" (Stephenson, 1988, p. 5). The
statements were created to stimulate a response, and thus were not
neutral. Participants in Q studies are forced to make subtle
differentiations between their extent of agreement and disagreement
by considering each statement in relation to one another. The
resulting Q-sorts were then factor analyzed to reveal clusters of
opinions. The Q factors represent types of "like-minded" people who
share similar attitudes and beliefs (Brown, 1993). Q studies make no
attempt to understand the percentage of people within a population
that adhere to the resulting factors; the function of Q methodology
is to provide a representation of the types of thinking that exist in
a given population in relation to specific issues (Gade, et al.,
1998, p. 14). However, to represent a broad cross-section of views
held by first-time presidential voters, a sample was recruited from a
general education, undergraduate communication course (open to all
students in the university). Participation was voluntary. A short
survey was also attached to the sorting instrument to record
respondents' demographics. The study's protocol was approved by the
university's Institutional Review Board.
The four factors that emerged from this analysis all achieved
eigenvalues above 2.0. Because factor analysis of the Q sorts yields
groups of like-minded individuals, it is appropriate to think of each
factor as a type of individual and helpful for the purposes of
understanding and clarity to give each type a name. The resulting
four types accounted for 50 percent of the variance; and the Secular
Democrat accounting for 18 percent of the variance, the Traditional
Conservative accounting for 11 percent, the Unquestioning Patriot
accounting for 11 percent, and the Religious Conservative accounting
for 10 percent. In the following description each type is
characterized by the predominant gender making up that group with
such pronouns as "he" or "she."
The Secular Democrat. The Secular Democrat believes that being an
informed citizen with an ability to separate church and state is an
important prerequisite for responsible voting. This type relies on
the media considerably more than the others to learn about election
issues. The Secular Democrat expects the news media to be
independent, factual and fair, but she is disappointed and skeptical
of many aspects of media performance. This is the only type that
doesn't agree with the Bush administration's conservative agenda.
The statement with which the Secular Democrat agrees most strongly
(z-scores noted parenthetically) is "I want to make an informed
choice in this election, so I'm studying the candidates' positions on
the issues" (1.59). This type shows strong agreement that she prefers
only truly informed citizens should vote (1.40). A woman on this type
writes, "I would be doing my country a disservice if I were to make
an uninformed choice in this election … it's important to know what
I'm voting for." And, for the Secular Democrat, voting itself is
important, as the closeness of the 2000 election shows how every vote
This is the only type that did not vote for Bush. She agrees strongly
that "I don't agree with the current government's conservative
agenda, so I'll vote to change that" (1.27). The Secular Democrat is
also the only type that doesn't agree that she will vote for the
candidate best able to protect the U.S. from terrorists (.00). Like
the other types, she agrees strongly that she's looking for values
she shares with the presidential candidate when deciding for whom to
vote (1.38), and how the candidates explain the issues is important
in how she decides to vote (.85).
The Secular Democrat is the only type that believes in the separation
of church and state. She is the only type to disagree, and her
disagreement is strong, to the statement: "It's important that we
keep in power someone with strong Christian values" (-1.28). One
Secular Democrat writes: "An elected official cannot and should not
be chosen based on religious reasons. Your religion has nothing to do
with what kind of leader you are." The two strongest disagree
statements in the concourse also have religious themes. She is the
only type to disagree strongly that belief in a Christian God is a
prerequisite for morality (-1.89), and she also disagrees more
strongly than the other types that the United States and its people
have been chosen by God to be the moral leaders of the world (-2.03).
The Secular Democrat relies on the news media more than her family or
friends for political news, and she wants a news media that is
vigilant of government and responsive to citizens. More than the
other types, she wants to the news media to question government
during war about what is being done to keep the country safe (1.30).
And, she shows strongest agreement of all types that most of what
she's learned about election issues has been learned through the
media (1.07). She disagrees that freedom of the press is a
conditional freedom (-.85), but believes this freedom belongs to the
people more than editors, publishers or news directors (.52). Like
the others, she also thinks that it's not too much to expect the news
media to be truthful, balanced and fair.
Despite her dependence on news media for political information, The
Secular Democrat is often disappointed with media performance. More
than other types, she agrees that people have no idea what's going on
in this world by consuming news from only the U.S. news media (.76).
One writes, "Sometimes the U.S. media tend to sugarcoat things or not
even cover them." Another adds, "U.S news is ethnocentric. It helps
to see other peoples' views." The Secular Democrat thinks that the
media turn presidential elections into a kind of no-holds-barred
sporting event, diminishing the importance of issues and how we
choose national leaders (1.10). She also shows moderate agreement
that the news media have published so many negative accusations about
the candidates that she's given trying to figure out which ones are
true or false (.45). This type puts little credence in political
advertising, disagreeing that political ads provide information that
helps her decide for whom to vote (-.66).
The Secular Democrat agrees more strongly than others that the
Internet is a great source for political news because everyone can
post their views and participate in the discussion (.70); however,
she fears the impact of foreign media, agreeing far more strongly
than the others that giving Americans access to foreign media like Al
Jazeera television can shake our country's confidence that the war on
terror is justified (.91). Taken together, these responses indicate a
third-person effect. Although she enjoys the freedom for discussion
that Internet provides, she remains fearful that other fellow
citizens can sort out truth from propaganda in foreign media,
specifically Al Jazeera.
Patriotism does not require public displays or unquestioning support
for government. More than the other types, she disagrees that it is
unpatriotic to question the government during war (-1.80). "The
ability of our people to question and change the government is what
makes our nation great," a Secular Democrat writes. Correspondingly,
this type is not supportive of the Patriot Act stipulations that
allow government intrusion into personal privacy, disagreeing
strongly that the federal government's monitoring of our phone calls,
emails, Internet and library use is the price we pay for homeland
security (-1.39). She's not eager to express her pride in being
American with people she doesn't know well (-.35), and like three of
the types in this study, she is not prepared to die to make her
country safer (-.54). However, like all types in the study, she
agrees that even those who disagree with the war in Iraq need to
realize that we are all Americans and we should stand behind our troops (.99).
The Secular Democrat is the largest type in the study, with 19
people, 14 of whom are women. Six of the 10 minorities in the study
are this type. All 19 people said they were registered to vote in the
presidential election, and 10 said they are members of the Democratic
Party, the only type with a Democratic Party majority. Nine members
of this type identified themselves as liberals, six said they are
middle of the road, two called themselves conservatives, and two
responded they didn't know. The Secular Democrat is 20.4 years old,
and 10 people on this factor said they were voting in a local, state
or national election for the first time.
The Traditional Conservative. For the Traditional Conservative family
and Christian values are of utmost importance when electing a
president. She expresses strong preference for a president who does
not necessarily look good on TV but has attitudes, values and beliefs
reminiscent of her own. She relies heavily on media to stay informed
about politics, but keeps an open eye for bias and reliability. She
is patriotic and relates this feeling with both her Christian beliefs
and her democratic participatory values.
The Traditional Conservative considers voting an important way to
participate in her country's politics and bases her choices on family
tradition. She disagrees strongly with the statement "I love my
country, but I don't see how voting has anything to do with it"
(-2.00), showing civic-mindedness that is related to patriotism. One
woman writes: "…we must participate in the democracy we love in order
to sustain and insure our equality". The Traditional Conservative
disagrees that none of the candidates have addressed important issues
(-1.11). Of all the types, she believes the strongest in the
importance of electing a president with strong Christian values
(1.62), and has the strongest support of all types for the statement
"When I decide to vote in a presidential election, I'm looking for
values I share with the candidate" (2.01). One Traditional
Conservative shares: "Christian values are what holds our
constitution and laws together. They are intertwined in the Bill of
Rights for a reason… They need to stay." She disagrees with the
statement "I don't agree with the current government's conservative
political ideas, so I'll vote to change that" (-1.52). She perceives
herself as a deliberative participant in democratic traditions: she
agrees that the 2000 election showed how every single vote counts
(1.34), picks up voting as a tradition in her family (.99) and more
than any of the types forms most of her political beliefs talking to
her family (1.46).
The Traditional Conservative strongly disagrees with the statement
that the country needs a president who looks good on television
(-1.85). She is the only type to disagree with the statement that
only truly informed people should vote (-.28). In addition to values,
the Traditional Conservative is concerned with the campaign issues
more than any other type (1.24).
The Traditional Conservative attitude toward media is a mix of
libertarian and social responsibility philosophy. She is somewhat
libertarian in that she agrees that the news media should question
the government even in times of war (.96). She shows the strongest
disagreement among all groups with the statement that all journalists
are out of touch with the needs of citizens (-.40), and strongest
disagreement among types with the statement "I don't take in a lot of
news because it doesn't concern me or what I'm interested in"
(-1.51). She is also the only type to find value in political
advertising (.49). The Traditional Conservative disagrees strongly
with the statement that American media aren't informative enough
about the world (-1.06) and disagrees that there are too many media
talking politics all the time (-.83). However, she shows a social
responsibility view by disagreeing that FOX (-1.12) is unbiased and
that CNN is trustworthy (-.38). One man writes: "FOX News is a
Republican biased news station".
The Traditional Conservative's patriotism is connected to her civic
consciousness, but also to her Christian values. She expresses strong
disagreement with the statement that voting doesn't have much to do
with love for the country (-2.00). Patriotism to her is also related
to religious values: the Traditional Conservative shows the strongest
among all groups agreement with the statement "When I'm at a public
event (like a ballgame)and the crowd is asked to observe a moment of
silence, I often pray for the well-being of our country or troops"
(.99). For the Traditional Conservative protection from terrorism is
an important voting issue (1.19), but she does not align her
patriotic loyalty completely with the government, as she expresses
the belief that the media should question it even in times of war
(.96). The Traditional Conservative feels that everyone should
support the troops (1.39), but is not willing to die for the safety
of her country (-.45)
The Traditional Conservative is Christian and relies on her religion
for civic and patriotic decisions. While the Traditional Conservative
shows disagreement with the statements that a Christian god is a
prerequisite for morality (-.21) and that the United States and its
people have been chosen by god to lead the world (-.62), she does
believe stronger than other types in the importance of electing a
leader with Christian values (1.62). As mentioned before, she also
prays at public venues for the safety of the troops (.99).
The Traditional Conservative type is comprised of 13 people, 10 of
whom are women. Twelve respondents are White and one African
American, and the average age is 19.9 years old. All 13 people said
they were registered to vote in the presidential election, they
planned to vote and none of them had voted previously. Nine members
of this type identified themselves as conservatives, and four said
they are middle of the road. Nine were members of the Republican
Party, two of the Democratic Party, and two were not party members.
The Unquestioning Patriot. The Unquestioning Patriot is strongly
devoted to his country and ready to die for it if duty calls. He is
also an extreme individualist: he doesn't rely on family tradition to
tell him how to vote and has libertarian views of media. His religion
does not dominate his worldview.
The Unquestioning Patriot has conservative political values and
considers voting important to expressing them. Of all types, he is
the most fervent supporter of President Bush, disagreeing strongly
with the statement "I don't agree with the current government's
conservative political ideas, so I'll vote to change that" (-1.80).
He does not think that voting is unrelated to showing his love for
his country (-1.92) and he disagrees that the candidates haven't
brought up topics important to him (-1.07). One of the respondents
states: "I respect the liberal ideas, but I disagree with them and
think that a moral and conservative government is best for our
country." A man writes: "I do not feel that our government is
The Unquestioning Patriot, however, shows little concern about
lessons from past presidential elections (.01), nor does he profess
to strong family traditions in democracy (-.04). He is somewhat
interested in how the candidate explains the issues (.49), but is
much more concerned whether the candidate shares his own values
(1.23). Despite his own low interest in issues, he prefers that only
truly informed people vote (1.17). The Unquestioning Patriot is
concerned with loyalty because he shows the strongest disagreement of
all types that a candidate gaining the endorsement of someone from
the opposing party would be very impressive (-.50). He strongly
disagrees with the statement that the president has to look good on
television (-1.49). The Unquestioning Patriot also supports the idea
that it is important to keep in power someone with strong Christian
values (1.21). One 18-year-old man writes: "As a Christian I know
that a leader with strong Christian values will lead this nation as a
nation holy and pleasing to God. This nation was founded under
Christian doctrines and it should be kept that way".
The Unquestioning Patriot considers media important to the political
process and has a mixed libertarian–social responsibility opinion
about its role. He is aware of the importance of keeping
well-informed and disagrees with the statement "I don't take in a lot
of news because it doesn't concern me or what I'm interested in"
(-1.26). The statement he agrees most strongly with is: "I think the
media should just provide factual information and let the public
decide what the truth is" (1.70). Similarly, the Unquestioning
Patriot disagrees (strongest among types) that it is too much to
expect the media to be truthful and unbiased (-1.24), he believes
it's not the media's responsibility to get people to vote (1.12), and
he doesn't believe that freedom of the press is conditional (-.48).
On the other hand, he agrees to the strongest degree among all the
types that this freedom is not the prerogative of editors and
publishers, but of the people (.55). The Unquestioning Patriot
doesn't believe that showing Americans foreign news channels like Al
Jazeera will shake the country's confidence that the war on terror is
justified (-1.29). However, he is a selective news consumer, who
disagrees that CNN is a well-respected and trustworthy news outlet
(-.77) and singularly among all the types agrees that FOX is unbiased
and provides straight news (.81). Of the four types, he is most
distrustful of political advertising (-.87). He doesn't believe that
information posted on the Internet is credible (-.11), nor does he
agree that the Internet is a good source for political information (-.52).
The Unquestioning Patriot professes a very strong loyalty to his
country. He is the only one among all types who is ready to die for
his country to keep it safe (1.56). One man writes: "I've always
believed that it is our duty as citizens to defend our nation and our
freedoms". Another says" "It boils down to ethics and morality: What
have you done for freedom?" The Unquestioning Patriot is the only
type to agree that it is unpatriotic for media to question the
government in times of war (.57). One of them states: "…patriotism is
supporting the country through thick and thin, not just the
hunky-dory times." Another writes: "It is not the job of the media to
second-guess decisions of combatants in the field nor the decisions
of their commanders". The Unquestioning Patriot is also the only one
eager to show he's American even among people he doesn't know well
(.49). He also has a strong opinion that even those who disagree
should support the troops in Iraq (1.54). One man states: "These
soldiers are there so you don't have to. People should be thanking
the soldiers every chance they get and appreciate what they are
doing." He is the only type who agrees that government monitoring
might be the price to pay for security (.11). The Unquestioning
Patriot agrees the strongest among all with the statement: "This year
I will vote for the candidate who will be best able to protect
America from terrorists" (1.66). One 22-year-old man, member of the
National Guard, writes: "The days of the Cold War are over. War will
not be a large battle with massive forces meeting each other. Today's
enemy is the terrorist".
Although highly patriotic, this type's loyalty is not related to
religious feelings. At public events, he agrees that he often prays
for the troops (.52), andhHe wants to keep in power someone with
strong Christian values (1.21), but disagrees that a belief in a
Christian god is a prerequisite for morality (-.19) and strongly
disagrees with the statement "The United States and its people have
been chosen by God to be the moral leaders of the world" (-.97).
The Unquestioning Patriot group is comprised of 11 people,
predominantly male (nine men and two women). Ten of them are white
and one is Asian-American. Their average age is 20.2 years (low of 18
and high of 24). Eight are members of the Republican Party, one is a
member of an independent party and two are not politically affiliated
with any party. The Unquestioning Patriot is registered to vote (10
out of 11) and nine out of 11 planned to vote in the 2004 elections
(one did not plan to vote and one was not sure). Only one of them had
The Christian Conservative. The Christian Conservative wanted
Christian values embodied in the candidate who achieved the 2004
Presidency. She believed that for people to be moral, they would have
to be Christian. This type disagreed with voting at the behest of
others. Instead, she believed that it was important that a voter be
truly informed. For this reason, she was an avid consumer of media.
Although she held the news media to a high standard, as an important
purveyor of political information, she was inured to any lapses in performance.
Shared Christian values were a central concern for this type of
voter. The Christian Conservative agreed strongly with the statement
"It is important that we keep in power someone with strong Christian
values" (1.50). One voter wrote: "By being Christian, I would feel
more confident that the person has the same values as me." She was
the only type of voter to agree with the statements: "Belief in a
Christian God is a prerequisite for morality" (1.40) and "The United
States has been chosen by God to be the moral leader of the world" (.61).
The Christian Conservative felt a sense of purpose. This voting type
agreed the strongest with the statement: "The closeness of the 2000
presidential race shows how every vote counts" (1.90). She strongly
disagreed that "None of the candidates for President have addressed
the issues that concern me" (-1.40). For this type, voting is a
matter of patriotism. She strongly disagreed with the statement: "I
love my country, but I don't see how voting has anything to do with
that" (-2.32). As one voter explained, "I love my country because we
have a choice, which pertains to voting." Voting is a family
tradition for this type (1.10) and part of a set of behaviors in
which she is willing to participate. She agreed with the idea of
"standing behind the troops" at a time of war (1.70) while at the
same time disagreeing with the statement: "It is unpatriotic to
question the government at a time when we are at war" (-1.20). One
voter elaborated: "After reviewing all the facts and analysis, we
should … know and understand why we are at war in the first place."
The Christian Conservative preferred that "truly informed people vote
in the presidential race (1.80). One voter wrote: "Voting is the only
way to change things, however, uninformed people do not need to
blindly cast their vote." For information, this type turned to the
news media, strongly disagreeing with the statements: "The media
don't influence my political beliefs as much as my friends do"
(-1.30), "There are too many media talking politics …." (-.93), and
"I don't' take in a lot of news…."(-.81). She confirmed instead that
"Most of what I've learned about this year's election issues I've
picked up from the media" (.52). On a range of issues related to
media performance, however her subjectivities registered weak and
often times neutral, including whether the media should be
responsible for getting people to vote (.24), whether the media
should question the government in times of war (-.21), and whether
political advertisement were beneficial (.02).
Still, the news media play an integral role in the political process
for this type. She disagreed strongly with the statement: "The media
turn elections into kind of no-holds-barred sporting events, which
diminishes the importance of issues…." (-1.50). She was the type to
agree the strongest with the statement: "CNN is a well respected news
outlet…." (1.00), and disagreed only moderately to the statement:
"FOX doesn't give me biased news and analysis. It gives me straight
news" (-.56). However, she was somewhat skeptical that international
news was socially beneficial moderately disagreeing that "You have no
idea what's going on in this world by just consuming news from the
U.S. news media" (-.54). Among the voting types, she showed the
strongest disagreement with the statement: "Political information
posted on the Internet is as credible as information published or
broadcast in the news media" (-1.16). As one first-time voter
explained, "There's no way to tell where it [the information] comes
from; It could be complete fiction." According to this type, the
media "should just provide factual information and let the public
decide what the truth is" (1.20).
To make an informed decision, she reported "studying the candidates'
position on the issues" (1.35) and looking for values she shared with
the candidate (.85). This type disagreed that "In this image driven
world we need a president that will look good on television" (-1.40).
She believed that she would support "a candidate who will be best
able to protection America from terrorism" (.83). Like the other
conservative voting types identified in this study, the Christian
Conservative rejected the statement that she did not agree with the
current government's conservative ideas and that she would use her
vote to change that, however, it may be worth noting that her
disagreement with this statement was comparatively weak (-.48).
The Christian Conservative is one of two smaller types in this study,
comprised of 11 people. Three of the 10 minorities in this study are
in this factor, however, this type was predominately comprised of
white females. In this type, five said that they were conservative,
one identified themselves as liberal, 2 middle-of-the road, and 3
responded that they didn't know. All voters in this type said that
they were registered to vote, while 10 of the 11 said that they had
plans to vote in the 2004 election. Four stated they were registered
Democrats, 1 was Independent, and 6 voters identified themselves as
registered Republicans. The Christian Conservative is 19.7 years old.
This study sought to understand the types of voters that existed
among the population of first-time eligible presidential voters in
the 2004 election. This cohort was an important group in the
election, as it comprised the largest number of first-time eligible
presidential voters in U.S. history. Research has also shown this
group to be largely disengaged from politics and not avid or
interested consumers of political news through traditional mass
media. The results of this study, however, indicate these assumptions
are not necessarily true. In the week prior to the 2004 election, the
first-time presidential voters who participated in this study
indicated that they were keenly plugged into the political process,
actively seeking news about the candidates and issues and committed
to making informed decisions about the candidates and for whom they
would vote. Incredibly, 53 of the 54 respondents who loaded on one of
the four factors that emerged in this study reported they were
registered to vote, and 52 planned to vote.
Three of the four types are clearly conservative in their political
views. Of these, the Traditional Conservative's views were drawn
first from her family and then from her religion. She also has a
strong sense of political duty, of which voting is a part, and as
such a patriotic act. The Unquestioning Patriot's love of country
transcends politics and religion, and he embodies the Greek
"patriote" as one who sees national identification as inseparable
from self and is willing to die for his country. The Christian
Conservative intertwines politics and religion in a way that
indicates only those candidates who profess or behold Christian
values are considered moral and viable political leaders. The fourth
type, the Secular Democrat, disagrees politically and ideologically
with the other types in some fundamental ways, separating church and
state, placing less emphasis on the terrorist threat, and seeing the
media as a more important source for political ideas and knowledge
than family or religion.
Perhaps most surprising is the extent of agreement that the types
exhibit about voting as a democratic act. All types see voting as
related to love of country, and all showed strong agreement to
statements about the importance of informing themselves on the
candidates' issue positions prior to the election. Interestingly,
when it came to deciding for whom to vote, respondents' perceptions
of the candidates' personal values were more important than the
candidates' stances on the issues. This finding held true for all but
the Secular Democrat, and is apparently an indication of the success
the Bush campaign had with first-time voters by emphasizing the
president's personal qualities and religious conservatism.
The respondents' views on media norms and practices were generally
not as strong or clearly developed as their ideas on voting, politics
and patriotism. However, there are several indications that this
cohort's ideas on news media and the journalism values are rooted in
traditional normative press theories, and not so jaded and cynical as
others have noted. In accordance with the Libertarian Theory of the
press, all types show moderate to strong agreement that the news
media should just provide factual information and let the public
decide the truth. Also, all types agree that it is not the media's
responsibility to get people to vote, but to provide them the
information to do so. Correspondingly, all types show moderate
disagreement that freedom of the press is a conditional freedom,
subject to re-evaluation based on media performance. All types also
show a desire for a socially responsible media, saying that it's not
too much to expect the news media to be truthful, balanced and fair.
There is also quite a lot of common ground among the types in how
they say they use the media and assess its performance. All were
apparently avid news consumers in the weeks preceding the election,
disagreeing quite strongly that they don't pay a lot of attention to
the news because it doesn't interest them. All types also disagreed
that there are too many media talking all the time, and all showed
moderate to weak disagreement that journalists are out of touch with
the needs of average citizens.
However, some important differences emerge among the types in terms
assessing news media performance. Two types, the Traditional
Conservative and the Secular Democrat, want the news media to
question the government during times of war; the Christian
Conservative shows mild disagreement, while the Unquestioning Patriot
disagrees quite strongly. Only the Secular Democrat agrees that the
Internet is a good source for political news because it allows
everyone an opportunity to post their ideas, suggesting that most of
the respondents in this study don't consider the Internet as a tool
for participatory democracy. Regarding political advertising, only
the Traditional Conservative agrees that television political ads
provide information that help her decide how to vote; the Religious
Conservative is neutral, while the other two types show moderate
disagreement. And in terms of the CNN versus FOX News debate, only
the Unquestioning Patriot agrees that FOX reports straight, unbiased
news, and the Christian Conservative and Secular Democrat are the
only types who agree that CNN is a news source that can be trusted.
As a volunteer sample that was recruited to participate in a study of
first-time presidential voters, it is clear that the results of this
study cannot be generalized. The results suggest that those people
who did not plan to vote generally chose not to participate. However,
a primary goal of this study was to understand how first-time voters
integrated important issues leading to the election – their views on
politics, patriotism and media. In this way, the sample revealed four
types of "voters" among this cohort, and how these types synthesized
and made sense of issues and values that impacted their first
presidential voting experiences. These results indicate that those
members of Generation Y who participated in the election are probably
quite different from their peers who stood on the sidelines during
the election campaign, and that a significant group of Generation Y
is not apathetic and cynical toward politics or the news media.
Voting in the presidential election was important to this group, and
the traditional news media provided essential information for
determining voting choices.
The Internet is creating new sources of political information and new
opportunities for political participation, and young voters have been
shown to be more Internet-savvy than older voters. However, this
study suggests that first-time presidential voters were not that
excited about politics "online," and they recognized a lack of
Internet credibility when compared to traditional news media. These
findings suggest that traditional mass media remain an important and
generally respected source of information for these voters,
regardless of political or ideological affiliation. Future research
might build upon this effort by attempting to understand the level
(or depth) of knowledge first-time voters have on relevant issues,
and how this knowledge is related to the amount of news media
consumed and the type of media from which young people are getting
their political news.
Brady, H. E., Verba, S., & Schlozman, K. L. (June, 1995). Beyond SES:
A resource model of
political participation, American Political Science Review, 89, 271-295.
Brown, S. R. (1993), April/July). A primer on Q methodology. Operant
CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and
Engagement) Staff (October 28, 2004). The 2004 presidential elections
and young voters. Retrieved March 23, 2005 from
De Figueiredo, Jr., R. J. P., & Elkins, Z. (2003). Are patriots
bigots? An inquiry into the
vices of in-Group pride. American Journal of Political Science, 47(1), 171–188.
Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper & Row.
Duffee, R. (2003). Patriotism in the age of investors. Peace Review,
Fetto, J. (2003, September). 21 and counting. American Demographics, 25(7), 48.
Fetto, J. (2001, September). 9.11.01. American Demographics, 23(6), 35-47.
Forces: U.S. and coalition casualties. Retrieved on March 24, 2005
French, R. (2002, September 8). America searches for the legacy of
9/11: The wounds are still too fresh to weigh terror attacks' lasting
impact. The Detroit News, A1-A9.
Gardyn, R. (2003, September 1). Almost adults. American Demographics,
Gardyn, R. (2000, September 1). Wise beyond their years: A
conversation with Gen Y. American Demographics, 27(9), p. 59.
Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great
Generation. New York: Vintage, 415 pp.
IWF Polls College Students (April 1, 2002). Retrieved March 25, 2005
Kantrowitz, B., Naughton, K., Halpert, J., Wingert, P. (2001,
November 12). Generation 9-11. Newsweek, p. 46.
Leo, J. (2003, September 3). The good news generation. U.S. News and
World Report, 135(15), p. 60.
MacIntyre, A. (1995). Is patriotism a virtue? In Ronald Beiner (Rd.),
citizenship. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Martinot, S. (2003). Patriotism and its double. Peace Review, 15(4), 405–410.
McClay, W. M. (2003). The mixed nature of American patriotism.
Society, 41(1). 37-45.
McDonald, M. (2005). 2004 voting-age and voting-eligible population
estimates and voter
turnout. Retrieved on March 24, 2005 from
McManus, J. P. (2003, September). A power of 21. American
Demographics, 25( 7), p. 6.
Merrill, J. C., & Lowenstein, R. L. (1979). Media, messages, and men
(2d ed). New York: Longman, Inc.
Merrill, J. C., Gade, P. J. and Blevens, F. R. (2001). Twilight of
press freedom: The rise of people's journalism. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Mindich, D. M. (2004). Tuned out: Why Americans under 40 don't follow
the news. Lavalette, NJ: Oxford University Press.
Murphy, R. M. (2004, April). The lure of independents. American
Demographics, 26( 3), 19-21.
Nathanson, S. (2002). In defense of "moderate patriotis". In
Primoratz, I. (Ed.). Patriotism. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.
Nerone, J. C. (1995). Last rights. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University
of Illinois Press.
Olson, M., Jr. (1965). The logic of collective action. Cambridge MA:
Harvard University Press.
Paul, P. (2001, September 1). Getting inside Gen Y. American
Demographics, 23(9), p. 44.
Quick facts: youth demographics. (2005). Retrieved on March 24, 2005
Rivers, W. L. & Schramm, W. (1969). Responsibility in mass
communication. (Revised ed.). New York: Harper and Row.
Rosenberg, Y. (2004, March). Lost. youth. American Demographics, 26 (
Siebert, F. S., Peterson, T. & Schramm, W. (1956). Four theories of
the press. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Silke, A. (2003). Terrorists, victims, and society: Psychological
perspectives on terrorism
and its consequences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Smackdown your vote® says 18-to 29-year-olds top numbers of first
time voters in 2004. (November 4, 2004). Retrieved on March 24, 2005
Stephenson, W. (1988). The play theory of mass communication. New
Webber, M. J. (2003). Recasting the bonds of affection. Peace
Review, 15(4), 411–417.
Yalof, D., & Dautrich, K. (2005). Future of the First Amendment: What
school students think about their freedoms. Miami, FL: Knight Foundation.
Zelinsky, W. (1988). Nation into state: The shifting symbolic
foundations of American
nationalism. Chapel Hill, NC : University of North Carolina Press.
Appendix: Z-scores for statements by type
I love my country, but I don't see how voting has anything to do with that.
The Internet is a great source for political news because everybody
can post their ideas and become part of the discussion.
Belief in a Christian God is a prerequisite for morality.
I'd prefer that truly informed people vote in the presidential race,
rather than just people voting because someone else told them to vote.
The news media have published so many negative accusations about the
candidates that I've given up trying to figure out which ones are
true or false.
None of the candidates for President have addressed the issues that concern me.
I don't agree with the current government's conservative political
ideas and I'll vote to change that.
It's important that we keep in power someone with strong Christian values.
I want to make an informed choice in this election, so I'm studying
the candidate's positions on the issues.
The closeness of the 2000 presidential race shows how every vote counts.
You have no idea what's going on in this world by just consuming
news from the U.S. news media.
Giving Americans access to foreign media like Al Jazeera television
can shake our country's confidence that the war on terror is justified.
I don't take in a lot of news because it doesn't concern me or what
I'm interested in.
Most of what I have learned about this year's election issues I've
picked up from the media.
The media don't influence my political beliefs as much as my friends do.
I've formed most of my political beliefs talking with my family.
During war, I want the news media to question the government about
what is being done to keep the country safe.
When I decide to vote in a presidential election, I'm looking for
values I share with the candidate.
When I decide to vote in a presidential election, I'm looking for how
the candidate explains the issues.
In this image-driven world, we need a president that looks good on television.
Political information posted on the Internet is as credible as
information published or broadcast in the news media.
What would impress me is if one of the candidates earned the public
endorsement of someone from the opposing party.
It is unpatriotic to question the government at a time when we are at war.
I am prepared to die for my country if that would keep it safer.
Even when I'm with people I don't know well, I'm eager to express my
pride in being American.
FOX doesn't give me biased news and analysis. It gives me straight news.
This year I will vote for the candidate who will be best able to
protect America from terrorists.
When I'm at a public event (like a ballgame) and the crowd is asked
to observe a moment of silence, I often pray for the well-being of
our country or troops.
Even those of us who disagree with the war in Iraq need to realize
that we are all Americans and we should stand behind our troops.
Participating in elections is a tradition in my family and I intend
to continue it.
Freedom of the press is not the property of editors, publishers and
news directors. It belongs to the people.
I think the media should just provide factual information and let the
public decide what the truth is.
Freedom of the press is a conditional freedom that should be
evaluated based on media performance.
It's not the media's responsibility to get people to vote, but to
provide people with the information to do so.
It seems most journalists are out-of-touch with the interests and
needs of everyday citizens.
It's too much to expect that our news media should be truthful,
balanced and fair.
Political television advertisements provide information that helps me
decide for whom to vote.
There are too many media talking politics all the time. Enough already!
CNN is a well-respected news outlet that I know can be trusted.
The federal government's monitoring of our phone calls, purchases,
e-mails, Internet and library use is just the price we pay for
The media turn presidential elections into a kind of no-holds-barred
sporting event, which diminishes the importance of issues and how we
choose our national leaders.
The United States and its people have been chosen by God to be the
moral leaders of the world.