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Corruption in the "First Order": Predicting the influence of scandal on voting behaviour and media perceptions during a General Election

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posted on 09.01.2022, 22:25 by Richardson, Amanda

This thesis investigates responses in voting behaviour and media perceptions to the presence of media scandals about politicians and associated political parties during the 2017 New Zealand general election. A repeated measures design was used wherein 351 participants were recruited before the start of the election campaign, primarily from an Introductory Psychology course at Victoria University of Wellington. Follow-up surveys were conducted at three time points throughout the two month campaign. Participants were randomly allocated into one of two conditions for each follow-up survey. Half the participants were given a real news article to read about a media scandal, the other half read an article about a policy platform by the same political party. At the end of the election campaign, participants were asked about their voting behaviours. A second study was conducted after Labour Party leader, Jacinda Ardern, was announced Prime Minister with participants recruited via social media sites ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’. In this study, 153 participants recalled information about scandals that were present in the media during the election campaign.

Results showed that political scandals in news media do have an influence on voter perceptions, but not in an easily predictable way. Prior perceptions of political parties were the best predictors of who participants intended to vote for. Participants responded most strongly to public policy articles rather than scandal information, particularly those more knowledgeable of New Zealand’s political system, and therefore likely more engaged with politics in general. Further, there was evidence that information presented in the media influenced how participants viewed political parties that were not involved in the scandal, which is an important under a proportional voting system like MMP which requires understanding of the relationships between parties.

Evidence was also found for a backlash effect towards the media wherein participants who were exposed to scandal information would displayed a decrease in trust towards the general media, consistent with the idea that one reason why voters may not respond negatively to scandal information reflects the decision that the source of the information is not credible. Future research should consider more targeted analysis on the different sources of news media, especially new media like blogs, social media, and entertainment news.


Advisor 1

Wilson, Marc

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Political Psychology

Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Wilson, Marc