Media, Millennials, & Politics

This book was published by Lexington books in March 2016.

It is currently available for order on Amazon.com and Lexington’s website.

Background Information:

This book looks at media coverage of the millennial generation’s participation and engagement in the 2012 Presidential election. This is an important and timely topic, because millennial voter turnout in the 2012 election neared 50%, having a much larger impact than predicted by the news media. To address this discrepancy in between the predictive description of the millennial generation by the news media and the actions and political participation of the group, this dissertation looks at the relationship between the media and millennials.

In an effort to understand the process by which the media’s perception of millennial identity and the millennial’s actual identity are constructed, this work analyzes discourses present in the media and the reactions of the millennial generation. The generation’s use of new modes of civic engagement, citizenship, and media active-disengagement reflect the social change that the millennials bring to traditional political and civic orientations. Older generations react to these changes and the political news media amplify these reactions by creating discourses regarding the millennials based on this potential social change.

Previous research has identified that there is much debate and disagreement about the positive or negative effects that social change might bring to contemporary democracy. These issues manifest themselves in questions such as: are the new forms of political, civic, and media engagement harmful or helpful to the country? These undecided questions produces social anxiety by the dominant social group (or older generations) which is likely reflected in mass media discourses.

Supported by the works of Stuart Hall, it is theorized that these media discourses surrounding the millennials’ engagement in politics have influenced the relationship between the generation and the mass media. A discourse analysis will identify the views and narratives used by the media to describe the millennial generation. In this study, members of the millennial generation will be asked for their reaction to these media discourses through weekly journal entries. This inclusion of the millennials will represent an effort to understand the effects of the media discourse, as well as a means to study the rationalization and response of millennials to news coverage.

The millennial generation is one of the largest generational groups in history encompassing members born between 1982 and 2001. As many scholars note, the civic, political, and media engagement patterns of this generation dramatically differ from previous generational groups, especially those alive today. The changes displayed by youth early in their lifespan often become dominant cultural forms in the future. As a result, it is important to look at how these changes are received by the political news media, as the media often reflect the controlling or dominant culture’s views. Rather than waiting for the changes to occur, by studying them now we can begin to understand how social change is addressed by the media and how the media’s reaction is understood by those causing the change.

In an effort to study this complex relationship between the media and the millennial generation, this book has three parts: first a discourse analysis of online and television news stories; second, a discourse analysis of the millennials’ journal responses; and third a reflection on the changing political culture of millennials . The findings of this two-part study will thus provide a contemporary examination of the media’s construction of a generational group as well as the produced relationship between the group and said media.

This book project originated from my dissertation work at Drexel University. 

Dissertation Committee:

Ernest A. Hakanen, Ph.D., Drexel University, Department of Culture and Communication (chair and graduate advisor)

Ronald Bishop, Ph.D., Drexel University, Department of Culture and Communication

Barbara Hoekje, Ph.D., Drexel University, Department of Culture and Communication

Sean P. Goggins, Ph.D., University of Missouri Informatics Institute, iSchool

Kathleen E. Kendall, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Department of Communication

This dissertation proposal was defended February 1, 2013.

This dissertation was defended May 16, 2014.

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