Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. John A. Clark

Second Advisor

Dr. J. Kevin Corder

Third Advisor

Dr. Emily Hauptmann

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Brian F. Schaffner

Abstract

For over thirty years, research on Congressional behavior has provided evidence of a link between constituent opinions and the ways in which members publically conduct themselves. Homestyle (Fenno, 1978: pg. 32), the way members “cultivate their constituencies,” has emphasized that personal encounters between members and their constituents is an effective strategy for decreasing the level of uncertainty members have about their approval. Homestyle, however, overlooks the fact that members of Congress cannot directly interact with their constituents on a daily basis. The mass media, specifically local media outlets, help legislators by transmitting relevant information about political events and legislators’ actions to the communities that those representatives serve. Representatives involve themselves in strategic interactions with journalists in order to influence the media’s capacity to influence public opinion by deciding what does and does not become news. Members attempt to present themselves in a manner consistent with the interests of their constituents in order to promote a sense of trust with citizens. Representatives can influence media reports on their behavior through the release of press statements specifically designed to bolster their activities in the legislature. These statements create an “image” or brand around a particular member, which can be easily consumed by the electorate and influence their preconceived notions and beliefs about the representativeness of a legislator to their interests. This dissertation examines the way members influence the local media’s ability to report the news through the use of press statements. I argue that the frequency and themes of these releases have a significant effect on the news that is created by local newspaper outlets. Furthermore, these interactions have a significant and positive effect on constituent perceptions about their representative.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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