BY ANTHONY TORRETTI
2013 Symposium on Student Research,
Creative Activities and Innovation Finalist
People are the heart of politics in a political system. Whether you're a diehard political junkie or the ultimate jaded skeptic, your action or inaction has consequences across society. This influence is not merely isolated to the voting booth, but is in effect in every conversation or social interaction. This interweaving of the personal and political realms is my particular item of fascination as a political scientist. In gaining a better understanding of these personal aspects of politics, we manage to not only develop better methods of advocacy and campaigning, but we also manage to make political systems better suited to the needs of the people.
About my Research
Working independently with occasional input from Dr. Cynthia Metoyer, I researched the concept of motivated skepticism, a person's tendency to be skeptical of political information they don't want to agree with, in the average voter. With public debate often seeming to be more and more divided and polarized, enriching our understanding of voter thought processes can be instrumental in improving the public debate.
For my research, I decided to approach voters directly and engage them in personal interviews. Over the course of each interview, we would discuss a political topic that the participant was interested in. I would introduce different falsified claims into the conversation, record what claims the triggered a participant's reaction and note how strongly they reacted. Would participants react more negatively to claims that challenged their views? Using interviews, as opposed to a surveys or laboratory tests, allowed me to get an in-depth personal look at how voters engaged with political information and how they expressed their reactions.
My research ultimately indicated that the majority of participants exhibited signs of motivated skepticism. This new understanding not only gives us a glimpse into how voters in our society might interact with new political information, but also lays the groundwork for future research to obtain a better understanding of the role motivated skepticism plays in voter information processing.
Anthony Torretti is among the 10 finalists representing CSUSM at the 27th annual statewide Student Research Competition held at Cal Poly Pomona on May 10-11. Hear firsthand how his research is leading to new discoveries, positively impacting his education and propeling him toward his future aspirations.