Kathleen Searles, Ph.D.

ksearles@lsu.edu

Louisiana State University

City: BatonRouge, Louisiana - 70806

Country: United States

About Me:

Assistant Professor of Political Communication, Kathleen Searles, holds a joint appointment in the Manship School of Mass Communication and the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University. Her interests include news media, campaign advertising, and political psychology.  Specifically, her research examines the content of partisan news, poll coverage, and the influence of emotional appeals in campaign ads.  Most recently her work focuses on using bio-metrics to better understand the effects of political television ads and direct mail.  She has published in Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Political Communication, The Journal of Experimental Political Science, and Political Psychology.  

Research Interests

Political Psychology

Public Opinion

Political Communication

Specific Areas of Interest

News Media

Poll Coverage

Experiments

Campaign Advertising

Eye Tracking

Partisan Media

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

The predominant way the American people learn about politics is through the news media. As such, to understand political attitudes, beliefs, and even political actions we need also to understand what information people consume and how they consume it. My research agenda takes on this challenge by drawing on several disciplines (psychology, political science, communication), and multiple methods (experimental, observational, and content analysis) and tools (eye-tracking and bio-metrics) to better understand the seemingly irrational political behavior of individuals. Specifically, my unique interdisciplinary background in political psychology and communication enables me to better understand how people respond to campaign ads and consume news, while my methodological training affords me the skills to uncover these attitudes and behaviors using psychophysiological approaches.

My research agenda can be organized into two major research streams: political news and campaign advertising. I have a record of publication in both areas, as well as ongoing projects motivated broadly by the same interest: to better understand what people attend to in their political environment using different informational contexts.

Publications:

Journal Articles:

(2018) “The Effects of Partisan Media on Electoral Predictions.”, Public Opinion Quarterly

Tags: Political Communication, Political Psychology, Public Opinion

Public predictions about the results of forthcoming elections have important consequences for political campaigns and support for governmental institutions. This research examines whether partisan media facilitate wishful thinking, which occurs when candidate preference biases electoral predictions. We use two experiments to test whether partisan news exposure increases wishful thinking about election outcomes. Our results suggest that when partisan media cover the in-party as winning the horse race, likeminded viewers are more likely to predict the in-party will win. On the other hand, when partisan media cover the in-party as losing the horse race, likeminded viewers adjust their predictions downward. The effects of unfavorable horse race coverage on electoral expectations are magnified when viewers watch the partisan news outlet they prefer. Meanwhile, watching counter-attitudinal media only appears to affect electoral predictions when partisans do not also watch like-minded news. Overall, we show that where people get their news, and how partisan media cover the horse race, has important effects on electoral expectations.

(2017) “The Effects of Men’s and Women’s Voices in Political Advertising.”, Journal of Political Marketing.

Tags: Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Political Psychology, Experimental Research

Campaigns disproportionately choose men to voice their political ads, but it is not clear that men’s voices are more credible or better able to persuade an audience. We employ experimental data and novel survey data to test theoretical expectations about the circumstances under which men’s and women’s voices might be more or less effective, specifically looking at how gender association of the ad issues and gender of the message recipient shape the effectiveness of the ad. We find that men’s voices are not universally more effective than women’s voices and under some circumstances may even be less effective.

(2017) “The Effects of Men’s and Women’s Voices in Political Advertising.”, Emotion Researcher

Tags: Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Political Psychology

Emotional appeals are a central part of politics in America, and examples of their use in political campaigns are many. The classic “Daisy Girl” ad of 1964 used images of a nuclear explosion to try to raise voters’ anxiety so that they would show up to the polls and vote for Lyndon Johnson. The American flags that appear on stages at campaign rallies (and on lapel pins) are designed to associate specific candidates with the emotion of pride. At the same time, anger over “Washington insiders” and the “Washington establishment” pervades many political speeches. Here we review the literature on the effects of emotions on people’s participation in politics, their opinions on political matters and the choices they make at the ballot box. We also review the small but growing literature on the use of emotions in political campaigns, that is, how political actors try to deploy emotions strategically to achieve their desired electoral ends (e.g., Ridout and Searles 2011; Cho 2013; Brader 2006). Finally, we examine the use of emotional appeals in advertising by Clinton and Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

(2017) The Use and Consequence of Emotions in Politics, Emotional Researcher

Tags: Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Emotional appeals are a central part of politics in America, and examples of their use in political campaigns are many.  The classic “Daisy Girl” ad of 1964 used images of a nuclear explosion to try to raise voters’ anxiety so that they would show up to the polls and vote for Lyndon Johnson.  The American flags that appear on stages at campaign rallies (and on lapel pins) are designed to associate specific candidates with the emotion of pride. At the same time, anger over “Washington insiders” and the “Washington establishment” pervades many political speeches.  Here we review the literature on the effects of emotions on people’s participation in politics, their opinions on political matters and the choices they make at the ballot box.  We also review the small but growing literature on the use of emotions in political campaigns, that is, how political actors try to deploy emotions strategically to achieve their desired electoral ends (e.g., Ridout and Searles 2011; Cho 2013; Brader 2006).  Finally, we examine the use of emotional appeals in advertising by Clinton and Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

(2017) Women Also Know Stuff: Meta-Level Mentoring to Battle Gender Bias in Political Science, Political Science and Politics

Tags: Gender and Politics

Women know stuff. Yet, all too often, they are underrepresented in political science meetings, syllabi, and editorial boards. To counter the implicit bias that leads to women’s underrepresentation, to ensure that women’s expertise is included and shared, and to improve the visibility of women in political science, in February 2016 we launched the “Women Also Know Stuff” initiative, which features a crowd-sourced website and an active Twitter feed. In this article, we share the origins of our project, the effect we are already having on media utilization of women experts, and plans for how to expand that success within the discipline of political science. We also share our personal reflections on the project.

(2016) For whom the poll airs: Comparing Poll Results to Television Poll Coverage, Public Opinion Quarterly

Tags: Political Communication, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Televised election coverage is increasingly dominated by the horse race, a key element of which is poll coverage. How do news outlets decide which poll to air? We know little about the gatekeeping function of news outlets as it pertains to poll coverage, perhaps because this research is plagued by selection bias: By observing only reported polls and not unreported polls, researchers cannot definitively establish that any differences in representativeness are due to bias. Using a novel dataset that includes all prime-time presidential election poll coverage on Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and broadcast television networks during the 2008 election, we compare the universe of polls released each day to the polls actually covered by each news network. We find differences between the distribution of poll coverage and distribution of actual poll results. Our results suggest that both gatekeepers and reporters may have a hand in this distortion.

(2016) Who’s the Boss? Setting the Agenda in a Fragmented Media Environment, International Journal of Communication

Tags: Political Communication

Recent work on media choice calls into question the continued influence of traditional news media on the public agenda. We asked whether agenda setting persists either in its traditional form or an alternative form. Coverage of the 2008 American economic collapse provides a unique case as it offers a rare moment of uniform media attention across outlets. We combined a content analysis of news coverage with survey data from the National Annenberg Election Study. Using multivariate time series analysis, we found that the news media respond to issue concerns of viewers and their effects vary by source

(2015) It’s a Mad, Mad World: Using Emotion Inductions in a Survey, Journal of Experimental Political Science

Tags: Political Psychology

Recent research has uncovered a dynamic role for emotion in political decision-making. Anger in particular has increased in importance as scholars uncover its role in motivating participation and partisanship. One method for examining these effects is to use an induction to invoke an emotion, though such techniques are often limited to the laboratory. We discuss pertinent psychological research on induction, test several methods, and make practical recommendations for political science survey research. Using a unique research design which varies the way anger is invoked, we first find significant effects using a scenario induction. We replicate these findings with an adult sample and extend the results to political inductions. We are able to offer practical advice to scholars interested in replicating the effects of angry campaign ads or better understanding the effects of anger arousal on political behavior.

(2015) In a Different Voice? Explaining the Use of Men and Women as Voiceover Announcers in Political Advertising, Political Communication

Tags: Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

We draw on a comprehensive database of American political advertising and television audience profile data to investigate the ways in which gender influences choices about the use of voice-overs in political advertising. Our findings suggest that although men voice the vast majority of political ads, campaigns do strategically choose the sex of the voice-over announcer and that it systematically varies with candidate characteristics, ad tone, and, to a lesser extent, issues. Moreover, using survey data, we show that the choice of voice-over influences the perceived credibility of the ad.

(2015) Vouching for the Court? How High Stakes Affect Knowledge and Support of the Supreme Court., Justice Systems Journal

Tags: Judicial Politics

Building on the geographic constituency theory of awareness of Supreme Court decisions, we conducted a panel survey in Cleveland, Ohio before and after Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which upheld state-funded vouchers in religious schools. We found several characteristics predict awareness: news consumption, income, and knowledge of and positive feelings toward the Court. Our results also showed those vested in the outcome, such as African Americans, religious individuals, and parents were more likely to change their attitudes in favor of the decision and become more positive toward the institution. These findings help us understand the circumstances under which some individuals may become vested in court decisions.

(2014) Who Let the (Attack) Dogs Out? New Evidence for Partisan Media Effects, Public Opinion Quarterly

Tags: Networks And Politics

Most research examining partisan media effects uses individual differences in exposure to news sources to predict attitude change. In this paper, we improve upon this approach by using variations in cable news coverage to predict subsequent changes in viewer impressions of the candidates. This approach allows us to examine the distinct effects of in-party and out-party candidate coverage. Content analyses and survey data show that partisan media effects result from coverage of the opposition candidate, and not from coverage of the like-minded candidate. Specifically, during the 2008 presidential election, increased coverage of Obama (McCain) on Fox News (MSNBC) made viewers less favorable toward Obama (McCain). Meanwhile, coverage of McCain (Obama) on Fox News (MSNBC) had minimal effects on viewer impressions. These results suggest that media effects persist even during an era dominated by selective exposure.

(2013) Fox News Nation: Identifying Media Effects During the 2008 Presidential Election, Political Research Quarterly

Tags: Networks And Politics, Political Communication, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

In this article, we examine both the content and effects of opinion shows during the 2008 presidential election. First, a content analysis shows that opinion shows devote most of their attention to attacking the opposition candidate, rather than praising the like-minded candidate. Second, analyses of panel data show that exposure to opinion shows made viewers less (more) favorable toward the opposition (like-minded) candidate. Finally, we use overtime analyses to show that coverage of the opposition candidate affects attitudes toward both candidates, whereas coverage of the like-minded candidate has negligible effects on attitudes toward either candidate.

(2013) Predicting Presidential Appearances During Midterm Elections, American Political Research

Due to limitations in both time and resources, presidents who wish to assist their copartisans’ electoral endeavors must make strategic choices when offering their assistance. Much research has attempted to explain why presidents devote their limited resources during a midterm election, yet we know little about the factors that lead to a presidential visit to a particular congressional district. Our research addresses this gap in the literature by narrowing the focus to the congressional district level. We ask the following: Are the same factors that lead to a presidential visit at the state level operational at the district level? The results suggest they are not. Moreover, we find that while presidents do indeed behave rationally when they make appearances for their copartisans, visits are more likely to occur when there are multiple higher-level competitive races in a district, and presidents are more likely to go where they are already popular.

(2013) The Mysterious Persistence of Non-Consensual Norms on the U.S. Supreme Court, Tulsa Law Review

Tags: Judicial Politics

In the popular imagination, the Supreme Court of the United States is often pictured as a “marble temple.” The building’s neo-classical façade, sitting atop an imposing stairway of forty-four steps looking down on the Capitol building and Pennsylvania Avenue is intended to give the illusion of a solemn institution that sits above the fray of political life and the ordinary mortals who work within it. But the Court is not a building. Nor is it a collection of nine black-robed judges. Rather, the Supreme Court is a collection of rules, norms, and ideas. Some of these are very complicated, such as the idea of judicial review or judicial impartiality. Some are more straightforward, such as the norm requiring secrecy about the Court’s deliberations, the principle of “majority rule when deciding cases,” or the idea of respecting seniority during conference discussions. Very few of these normative structures are formalized in laws or statutes. Most are simply customary habits of thought or traditions which, by their very nature, are alterable without any formal process that would mark a clear break from past practices.

(2011) Exploring the validity of electronic newspaper databases, International Journal of Social Research Methodology

Do electronic newspaper databases contain all of the stories that appear in the print edition? And does this depend on the database used? To explore these questions, we collected print copies of newspapers from cities across the USA and Canada. We compared coverage of two topics in these newspapers with the coverage obtained from keyword searches in three electronic newspaper databases. We conclude that the stories obtained through electronic searches are consistent across databases but can vary from the print source. Importantly, national and international coverage is more likely to be missing than local or statewide/provincial coverage.

(2011) It’s my Campaign I’ll Cry if I want to: How and When Campaigns use Emotional Appeals, Political Psychology

Tags: Political Psychology

Recent research in the area of campaign advertising suggests that emotional appeals can influence political attitudes, electoral choices and decision-making processes. Yet is there any evidence that candidates use emotional appeals strategically during campaigns? Is there a pattern to their use? For instance, are fear appeals used primarily late in the campaign by trailing candidates in order to get voters to rethink their choices? And are enthusiasm appeals used more commonly early on in order to shore up a candidate's base? We use affective intelligence theory—and supplement it with the idea of a voter backlash—to generate expectations about when candidates use certain emotional appeals (namely, anger, fear, enthusiasm, and pride) and which types of candidates are most likely to do so. We then test these ideas using campaign advertising data from several U.S. Senate races from 2004. Our research thus provides a link between research on campaign decision making—here the decision to “go emotional”—and research focusing on the effects of emotional appeals on voters.

(2010) Feeling Good and Doing Good for the Environment: The Use of Emotional Appeals in Pro-environmental Public Service Announcements.”, Applied Environmental Education and Communication

Tags: Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Political Psychology

Research in political psychology suggests that politicians successfully manipulate emotions through campaign advertisements. While work in environmental psychology emphasizes emotional connection to the environment, scholars have yet to examine the potential of emotional appeals in non-campaign messages. I am interested in the use of emotional appeals in pro-environmental public service announcements. I set out to test the effect of emotional appeals in an environmental public service announcement script. Using a survey experiment I demonstrate that emotions significantly influence the environmental attitudes of participants. My findings offer support for the application of affective intelligence theory to environmental communication.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2016) Deadline Denmark

Interviewed by Deadline Denmark, “Psychology and politics collide in this alternative analysis of the night’s debate. Where do you think Hillary’s “Happy Place” is?” October 10, 2016.

(2015) The Washington Post

Guest Post on Monkey Cage Blog, The Washington Post: “Researchers are rushing to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Should they?” May 4, 2015.

Radio Appearances:

(2017) Wisconsin Public Radio

Interviewed by Joy Carding examining the recent media coverage of Trump.

(2016) Kerri Miller Show , MPR News

Interviewed by Kerri Miller with Guest Ian Haney Lopez on MPR News with Kerri Miller Show, MPR, “Coded language on the campaign trail.”  March 1, 2016.

(2016) Kathleen Dunn Show, Wisconsin Public Radio

Interview by Kathleen Dunn with guest Emily Beaulieu on The Kathleen Dunn Show, WPR, “The Gender Gap in Political Analysis.”March 8,2016

(2016) Kerri Miller Show , MPR News

Interviewed by Kerri Miller with Guest Ian Haney Lopez on MPR News with Kerri Miller Show, MPR, “Coded language on the campaign trail.”  March 1, 2016.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2016) The Time-Picayune

Interviewed by Rich Rainey at The Times-Picayune: “Why Donald Trump will win the 2016 Louisiana presidential primary.”  February 29, 2016.

Blog Posts:

(2017) Inside Higher Ed

Research featured in article by Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed: “Dude, Women Know Stuff.” July 6, 2017

(2017) Behavioral Scientist

Research featured in article by Yanna Krupnikov at Behavioral Scientist: “Smartphones Make it Easier to Follow the News, but Harder to Comprehend.” June 9, 2017.

(2017) OUPBlog

Guest post on OUPBlog, with Martha Ginn, and Jonathan Nickens: “The polls aren’t skewed, media coverage is.” March 12, 2017.

(2016) Science News

Research featured in post by Rachel Ehrenberg at Science News: “Men’s voices dominate political ads, but voters listen to women.” February 26, 2016

(2016) Monkey Cage, The Washington Post

Guest post on Monkey Cage, The Washington Post with Samara Klar, Yanna Krumpnikov, Kim Yi Dionne, Emily Beaulieu, Amber Boydstun, Melissa Michelson, and Christina Wolbrecht: “Here’s a list of smart women political scientists. They know stuff, too.” February 11, 2016.

(2016) Journalist's Resources, The Shorenstien Center

Research featured in post by Lauren Leatherby at Journalist’s Resources, The Shorenstein Center: “Political ads: Analyzing voice-over use.” January 7, 2016.

(2016) Politico

Research featured in article by Julie Sedivy at Politico: “Donald Trump Talks Like a Woman.” October 25, 2016.

(2016) The Washington Post

Guest post on Monkey Cage, The Washington Post with Martha Ginn, and Jonathan Nickens: “Here’s another reason not to trust TV news reports about election polls.” August 23, 2016.

(2016) Disaster, Property, and Politics Blog

Guest post on Disaster, Property, and Politics Blog: “The Disaster Won’t Be Televised: 7 Reasons Why the Louisiana Floods Did Not Make National News.” September 1, 2016.

(2016) PSNOW

Interviewed by PSNow blog, “#WomenAlsoKnowStuff: Editorial Board Member, Kathleen Searles, Talks Importance of Sharing Women Experts.” August 17, 2016.

(2016) The Conversation

Guest post on The Conversation with Emily Beaulieu, “Why are political experts mostly men? Women also know stuff.” Republished on HuffPost Education.  March 7, 2016. Republished on Social Science Space. March 8, 2016. Republished on Alternet. March 18, 2016.

(2016) The Interpreter

Guest post on The Interpreter with Emily Beaulieu: “Women also know stuff: Ask them.” March 8, 2016.

(2016) Huffington Post Politics

Guest Post on Huffington Post Politics with Samara Klar, Yanna Krumpnikov, Kim Yi Dionne, Emily Beaulieu, Amber Boydstun, Melissa Michelson, and Christina Wolbrecht: “Experts Weigh In: Women Also Know Stuff.” March 8, 2016.

(2016) LSE Impact Blog

Guest post on LSE Impact Blog with Emily Beaulieu, “Disrupting implicit bias: Crowdsourced database highlights women experts in the social sciences #WomenAlsoKnowStuff.” March 10, 2016.

(2016) DIG Baton Rouge

Interviewed by Rickey Miller at Digg: “Voting Millennials: Why Aren’t Students Voting?” March 15, 2016.

(2016) Science News

Research featured in post by Rachel Ehrenberg at Science News: “Men’s voices dominate political ads, but voters listen to women.” February 26, 2016.

(2016) The Washington Post

Guest post on Monkey Cage, The Washington Post with Samara Klar, Yanna Krumpnikov, Kim Yi Dionne, Emily Beaulieu, Amber Boydstun, Melissa Michelson, and Christina Wolbrecht: “Here’s a list of smart women political scientists. They know stuff, too.” February 11, 2016.

(2015) MacLean's

Interviewed by Jason Markusoff at MacLean’s: “Guy talk: What are the Conservatives’ latest ads so male-dominated?” September 23, 2015.

(2015) Wesleyan Media Project Blog

Guest Post on Wesleyan Media Project Blog: “Voice and Inequality in Political Campaigns.” April 28, 2015.

Other:

(2016) LSU

Featured Tiger.