Competing Messages
Oklahoma University - January - March 2006

The objective of this research was to measure the use and attention of mass media sources as they affect the attitude of parents and young adults about the Marine Corps and Army. The study was conducted to determine if parents and youth differ in where they obtain information about the military and how it affects their attitudes of military and likelihood of joining the military.

The goal of the study was to provide information to help recruiting efforts of the Army and the Marine Corps, the two services whose recruiting has been most affected by the Global War on Terror.

Our study was hampered by a small sample size. Consequently, this left many of our hypothesis unsupported. In a number of cases, we were approaching significance, but could not claim significance due to the small power. If at least 200 surveys could have been attained, the significance of the overall study would have been greater. However, we were able to find significance for several hypotheses even with a small sample.

The only significant predictors of attitudes towards the Marine Corps were income and talk radio use. Greater family income and uses of talk radio and radio news, were associated with positive attitudes about the Marine Corps. Use of radio news was related to less positive attitudes about the Marine Corps. For the Army, income and radio news use were significant predictors of attitudes about the Army. Respondents reporting greater family income manifestmore positive attitudes about the Army.

Those relying on radio news information about the Army manifested less positive attitudes. We also found that income was a significant predictor in determining the likelihood of joining the Marine Corps. Greater family income was related to greater likelihood of joining. For the Army, income and radio news use were significant predictors in determining likelihood of joining their service. Greater family income was associated with greater likelihood of joining the Army. Use of radio news predicted less likelihood of joining the Army.

Our predictions also stated parents who have a positive attitude about the military would support their young adult joining the military and young adults who have a positive attitude about the military would be more likely to join the military. As the Legree et al. (2000) study points out, the number of parents with direct knowledge about the military is dropping and suggests targeting parents in the services’ recruitment strategies. Our results found parents who have a positive attitude about the military are more likely to support their young adults in joining the military. The same pattern was true for young adults. This supports Legree et al. (2000) study, where his research suggested that parental reports of positive attitudes are associated with adolescent enlistment behavior. 

Our research posited parents would have a negative attitude about the military and about serving in the military when compared to young adults. However, attitudes regarding the Marine Corps and the Army did differ between groups. Also, the likelihood of joining either service did not differ across the group. Likelihood for joining the Army was higher for males than females.

Our hypothesis suggested those who rely on news for information about the military will have more negative attitudes about the military and about serving in the military. According to Kurtz (1999), more audiences are tuning in to get the news from different avenues, such as entertainment. For adolescents that are 15-18 years old, only 10% of their television time is spent watching news (Roberts, Foehr, & Rideout, 2005). For those 35 and older, they spend nearly double the time watching news (Pew Research Center, 2004). The results found radio news was the greatest predictor of attitude about the military and about serving in the military. However, our hypothesis was only partially supported because the other vehicles of news information, such as newspapers and television news, did not predict military attitudes.

We also predicted those who rely on entertainment for information about the military will have more positive attitudes about the military and will be more likely to serve in the military. Entertainment is just another form for audiences to gather information. Although it may seem as though what is watched, read or heard may be done so purely for entertainment, serious or real-life situations are being depicted to audiences (Baum, 2003). For our study we examined entertainment mediums such as movies, videogames, entertainment television, and primetime television shows about the military. Ethnicity, newspaper use, entertainment television, and movies depicting the military were all significant predictors in determining one’s likelihood of serving.

The results offer only partial support for the positions that news might undermine, but entertainment might enhance, recruitment. However, two additional tests provide further support for these positions. First, the thermometer measure, which assessed the likelihood of joining the military, in contrast to the attitudinal scales, provide additional support.

The results here indicated that greater use of newspapers and entertainment television reduced chances of joining the military, whereas use of movies depicting the military enhanced likelihood of joining.

Second, media use predicted peoples attitudes about continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. The pattern was the same as reported above. Greater use of newspapers and television entertainment undermine support for the war in Iraq, whereas more use of movies depicting the military enhanced support for the war. Taken together, these results provide further support for our hypotheses: that news may undercut, and movies may bolster, recruitment efforts for both the Marines and Army.

There is limited research measuring the persuasiveness of military advertisements, but there is evidence showing how advertising in general can be a highly effective tool. The television documentary Merchants of Cool (Goodman & Dretzin, 2001) illustrates the power of advertising and the rise of Sprite from relative anonymity in the beverage industry, to its relationship to hip-hop culture. We predicted those relying on advertisements for information about the military would have positive attitudes about the military. However, this hypothesis was not supported in our study. Likewise, our prediction that those who had military experience in the immediate family would have a positive attitude about the military and serving in the military, was not supported. It is easy to conclude that the current war is having an impact on the attitudes people have about the military and serving in the military despite the fact that immediate family have served in the military.


The limitations of our research are most directly related to the audience from which we used to draw our sample. Specifically, the limited location, age, time to draw the sample, and size of the sample, impacted our ability to provide greater significance to our results.

First, one of several limitations of our data are that our audience and sample only reflect those people in the Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas area. In order to obtain the most generalizeable results, future research should encompass a larger area. In addition, another limitation of our data was the age of the adolescent respondents, which was 16-18. Future research should expand the age of kids to 29, which corresponds to the armed forces recruiting standard of ages 18-29.
Other limitations include time restrictions and size of the sample. In the two week time frame in which data was collected, 1014 calls were made with 119 surveys completed. In future research, more time would be required to collect data from a larger sample. Future research should also seek other methods of conducting the survey, as our research was limited to phone surveys. Conducting the 20 minute survey through face-to-face, and/or mail-in surveys should be considered.


 DoD Joint Course in Communications - Class 06-B