David Vannette

Department of Communication

Does Data Visualization Influence the Effects of Polls on Political Attitudes? (2014-2015)


It is now common for public opinion data to be presented graphically. How visual modes of public opinion data representation may influence the type and magnitude of poll effects observed on political attitudes and behaviors is a new and important question in political communication research. While a growing body of research has demonstrated the potential for the poll reporting in the news to influence attitudes and behaviors of those exposed, no research has tested different modes of public opinion data presentation. Prior research has emphasized the effects of polling information and the implications for important political outcomes. However, the distinctions between textual and graphical representations of polling information have not been explicitly examined. Similarly, a growing literature in cognitive psychology has emphasized the important role of the mode in which information is presented in terms of how it is processed, remembered, and acted upon. However, many of the recommendations for information presentation from cognitive psychology have not been examined in terms of their potential for influencing substantive outcomes such as political attitudes or behaviors in response to political information. This study proposes to examine the question of how modes of public opinion information presentation, textual or graphical, may differentially influence the type and magnitude of poll effects observed. In the future I plan to extend this research into looking how interactive data tools, such as those on the New York Times or the Huffington Post, may influence political attitudes.


The Effects of News Media Representations of Public Opinion on (future) Public Opinion (2012-2013)


My research in the lab examines political communication and political psychology and takes my interest in surveys and applies it to measuring and understanding the effects that published poll results might have on the people who read them. Some of the specific effects that IĆ­ve examined are the impacts of polls on election turnout, the effects of source information and the quality of poll data on attitude formation, and at an even more basic level the extent to which people use public opinion data in addition to or instead of expert opinion and other sources of information when forming opinions.