Moody research analyzes public opinion on politics, media

Brittany Wagner

A recently published survey by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life polled over 2,000 U.S. citizens, revealing mixed views on topics such as the use of social media in modern politics and the trustworthiness of public officials.

The survey, titled Texas Media & Society Survey, was conducted between May and June of this year by the Institute, which is a part of the Moody College of Communication. 1,006 Texans and 1,009 Americans were asked a series of questions concerning the media and politics, according to Talia Stroud, assistant director of research at the Institute.

Though some of the results were anticipated, such as that 80 percent of the public thinks politicians will say whatever it takes to get elected, others were surprising, according to Stroud. When participants were asked whether it makes a journalist more or less credible to answer questions on social media, the results were “super interesting,” Stroud said.

“Around a third of the public thought that it made journalists more credible if they respond to questions about the news via social media.” Stroud said. “So I think that opens up a really exciting opportunity for journalists to get involved in a new way on social media.”

Susan Nold, director of the institute, said the research findings could be used by students to discuss their role as problem-solvers of the future.

“Students today will become the producers and consumers of news content in our future, as well as voters, candidates and participants in civic life,” Nold said in an email. “This survey is one of many designed to provide a basis for conversation, learning and inquiry into the issues of politics, media and society.”

The institute often involves undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students in projects like the Engaging News Project, the Campaign Mapping Project and Project Vote Smart, according to Stroud.

Plan II and government senior Alishan Alibhai was chosen to help analyze the survey’s data. His group focused on evaluating citizens’ opinions on journalists’ disclosure when reporting on various topics, according to Alibhai.

Alibhai said a student of any major would benefit from partaking in research like this if they’re interested in politics or psychology.

“This project really opened my eyes [to] the beauty of numbers and how they tell a story about the political landscape in the United States,” Alibhai said. “That really piqued my interest in what other ways can we use statistics and survey data to get a feel for the national climate.”