The Third-Person Effect

Open access

Abstract

This article focuses on people’s beliefs about how other people’s political attitudes are shaped and examines how the hypothesis of a third-person effect is related to non-mediated sources of information such as personal experience and interpersonal communication. Also presented are results on the perceived impact of different media such as television, newspapers and political advertising. A representative sample of the Swedish population answered a national survey during the period November - December 2001, and the results show general support for a third-person effect. Mediated information sources and interpersonal communication are believed to influence others more than oneself. Personal experience, on the other hand, is believed to be more important for oneself than for other people, and first-person effects were found among people with a high level of education or a strong political interest. Thus, one conclusion is that people tend to believe their own picture of politics is more dependent on personal experience and that others’ political attitudes are more dependent on mass media or people in their social environment.

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