Partisan Identification as a Predictor of Cortisol Response to Election News

Hart Blanton, Erin Strauts, Marisol Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Partisan effects on media consumption have been widely documented, with considerable attention given to partisan influences on selective exposure. Although researchers have debated the degree to which selective exposure drives media consumption in general and partisan consumption of the news in particular, one of the hypothesized mechanisms linked to this phenomenon seems inherently plausible: Exposure to disliked news coverage can generate psychological discomfort. The physiological effects of this hypothesized discomfort were examined by determining how political partisanship influences release of the stress hormone, cortisol, following exposure to news coverage of a presidential election. The study was conducted in the week following the 2008 election. Participants were students at a large, mostly conservative state university who read news coverage about the election victory of Barack Obama or a set of control news stories. Results indicated that conservative political identification was associated with more negative and less positive emotional responses and with a spike in salivary cortisol levels. Contrary to predictions, however, the cortisol spikes appeared to operate independent of self-reported emotional distress. The implications of these results are considered as they relate to selective exposure and the physical health of partisans who follow political news.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-460
Number of pages14
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • cortisol
  • partisanship
  • political attitudes
  • political communication
  • psychological stress
  • social stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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