“Para-social behavior is a form of quasi-interpersonal behavior that results when audience members develop bonds with media personalities that can resemble interpersonal social interaction, but is not usually applied to political communication. This study tested whether the “Drinking-Buddy” Scale, a simple question frequently used in political communication, could be interpreted as a single-item measure of para-social behavior with respect to political candidates in terms of image judgments related to interpersonal attraction and perceived similarity to self. The participants were college students who had voted in the 2008 election. They rated the candidates, Obama or McCain, as drinking buddies and then rated the candidates’ perceived similarity to themselves in attitude and background, and also the social and task attraction to the candidate. If the drinking-buddy rating serves as a proxy measure for para-social behavior, then it was expected that participants’ ratings for all four kinds of similarity to and attraction toward a candidate would be higher for the candidate they chose as a drinking buddy. The directional hypotheses were supported for interpersonal attraction, but not for perceived similarity. These results indicate that the drinking-buddy scale predicts ratings of interpersonal attraction, while voters may view perceived similarity as an important but not essential factor in their candidate preference.”
Photo: flickr/Gorram Firefly
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