A Tale of Two Turnouts in 2004: Effects of News Frame Valence and Substance on College Students' Levels of Trust, Cynicism, and Political Information Efficacy

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Following the 2004 U.S. presidential election, articles from the Associated Press and major news organizations came to very different conclusions regarding the impact of young voters on the election outcome. While some media outlets framed the youth turnout as a success, others framed it as a failure. This experimental study (N=237) utilized a pre-test/post-test design to build upon research on framing theory and political information efficacy theory. Articles about youth voter turnout in the 2004 election served as the stimuli to test the effects of news frame valence and frame substance on college student respondents' levels of trust, cynicism, and political information efficacy. Results indicated that while valence and level of substance of a news article may affect political attitudes, changes between experimental groups were not significant. Cynicism was negatively correlated with political information efficacy and trust. Attitudinal measures accounted for a significant amount of variance in respondents' interest in the 2006 campaign as well as perceived importance of both political engagement and youth voter turnout in past and future campaigns.



Political Information Efficacy, Framing, Valence, Youth Voting, Substance