A questionnaire was tested on a group consisting of 10 male and 19 female college-aged students from the University of Oklahoma. Ninety-three percent-27- of the subjects were under the age of 25. The ideal sample for this study is at least 384 subjects to get a 95 percent confidence level with a ±5 percent error (Keyton, 2001, p. 127). We broke that sample into five general age categories correlating to the various age groups of people in the United States. We discounted all demographics for people under age 17 because they are not part of the political power base. Racial demographics were split into three major races and a fourth category for people of mixed racial background (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000, p. 12). The demographic was also divided into male and female participants.
A stratified sample (Refer to Table M-1) was employed for this study. A stratified sample is a probability sample where "criteria are set up to ensure representation of particular groups within the sample proportionate to their numbers in the population (Sommer & Sommer, 1997, p. 239).
A stratified sample has the advantage or maintaining the representativeness of the desired variables; it makes it easier to compare variables to other populations, and helps to reduce the sampling error (Wimmer & Dominick, 1991). The disadvantages of the stratified sample are that a prior knowledge of the population is required, taking this course of action can be expensive and time-consuming, it can be difficult to find a sample if incidence is low, and variables that describe the strata may not be present (Wimmer & Dominick, 1991).
We can discount two of the disadvantages because the U.S. Census Bureau already provides the knowledge of the population. This eliminates prior knowledge and low incidence as factors. Also, time and expense are irrelevant for this study.
Procedure and Instrument
Participants are asked to fill out and turn in a questionnaire. If their race is not white, black, or Asian then they are considered "other" for the purposes of this study. Examples of television programs have been added into the questionnaire, but it is pointed out to the participant that those are not the only choices of television programs.
The questionnaire (Appendix A) is made of 24 questions designed to measure the media with the greatest impact on the population. The first section is three questions to determine race, sex, and age demographics. These demographics were chosen because they match the demographics of the U.S. census bureau's annually published statistical abstract of the United States. The four questions in the Section II measure the subject's military affiliation. This will help determine if they have any pre-conceived notions about the military. Section III has five closed questions designed to measure perceptions regarding the military. The first three measure this variable on a five-point Likert scale. This is an advantage over a simple yes-or-no question because it does not force the participant to take a stand on the issue. The last two questions in this group measure how current events affect the subject's perceptions about military service. Section IV measures the impact that different types of media have on the subject. The final section's questions measure how often and what types of media the subject uses the most.
Respondents rated the media outlet which they perceive as the best for gaining information regarding the military and which media outlet they feel has the greatest impact on their opinions on which issue is important to America. More than 48 percent of respondents rated television as the best media outlet for information regarding the military and 76 percent of respondents rated television as having the greatest impact on issue importance. Media usage was manipulated by asking the respondents to determine the time spent per week with each media outlet. Respondents were asked to determine, in minutes, the time spent per week with television, newspapers, magazines, Internet and radio.
Respondents were also asked to rate their overall perception of the military (M=1.89, α=.05 ) using a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (positive) to 5 (negative). Additionally, respondents were asked to rate their perception of the military prior to Sept. 11, 2001 (M=2, α=.05) using the same Likert scale as in overall perception of the military. An additional five-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (support) to 5 (oppose), determined support for military actions abroad. See Table M2: Statistics (below). Finally, respondents reported several demographic variables, including race, age, and sex.
Preliminary analyzation revealed that the frequency for television use as a primary information source is indicative of the ease and accessibility of television. The researchers used the two-tailed t-test to determine correlations between television viewing, perception of the military and the impact television has on the respondents' decisions regarding issue importance.
As can be seen from the Means, Standard Deviations and Variances of questions 20-32 (except question 28), we had some design problems with the questionnaire. The majority of the subjects did not answer those particular questions in the manner we requested. However, since those variables were more of a check on the results of the main variables we were testing, we can discount them for the time being.
Hypothesis 1 predicted that media influences public perception of the military. The analysis of test survey participants showed no significant correlation between these factors as Table M-3 shows. Hypothesis 2 predicted that public affairs practitioners could use media-set agendas to cultivate positive perceptions of the military if used successfully. The survey results were inconclusive regarding this hypothesis because there seemed to be no significant correlation between media usage and perception of the military (r=.065, α=.05). This doesn't seem to agree with the data we collected which, overall, indicated a positive shift regarding views of the military after the events of September 11, 2001. Prior to 9/11, 86.2 of the subjects had a neutral, somewhat positive or positive view of the military; after 9/11 that changed to 93.11 percent. Also, 78.6 percent of respondents chose television as the media source having the greatest impact on them, and 69.2 percent named television as the best outlet for information regarding the military. Comparing those two values yielded a higher correlation (r=.327, α=.05).
Although no significant correlation was discovered that supported hypothesis 1 and the results of hypothesis 2 were inconclusive, survey participants supported hypothesis 3 regarding television as the best media outlet for public practitioners to use when publicizing the military.