Research Publication Roundup: April 2021

A vibrant and collaborative interdisciplinary research culture at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media creates new knowledge, advances scholarship and helps reinvent media.

Ph.D. candidate Kirsten Adams and Edgar Thomas Cato Distinguished Associate Professor Daniel Kreiss recently published a book with Cambridge University Press, “Power in Ideas,” offering a framework for studying ideas and how they travel through political, media and public discourse. More details on this book are listed below, along with a list of other recently published or presented scholarship by UNC Hussman faculty and students.


Adams, K., & Kreiss, D. (2021). Power in ideas: A case-based argument for taking ideas seriously in political communication. Elements in Politics and Communication.

"Power in Ideas" develops a framework for understanding the role of ideas in political life and communication. The researchers argue that the empirical study of ideas should combine interpretive approaches to derive meaning and understand influence with quantitative analysis to help determine the reach, spread and impact of ideas. This book illustrates this approach through three case studies: the idea of reparations in Ta-Nehisi Coates's “The Case for Reparations,” the idea of free expression in Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook policy speech at Georgetown University and the idea of universal basic income in Andrew Yang's “Freedom Dividend.” The researchers trace the landscapes and spheres within which these ideas emerged and were articulated, the ways they were encoded in discourse, the fields they traveled across and how they became powerful.

Agans, R. P., Zeng, D., Shook-Sa, B. E., Boynton, M. H., Brewer, N. T., Sutfin, E. L., Goldstein, A. O., Noar, S. M., Vallejos, Q., Queen, T. L., Bowling, J. M., & Ribisl, K. M. (2021). Using social networks to supplement RDD telephone surveys to oversample hard-to-reach populations: A new RDD+RDS approach. Sociological Methodology.

Random digit dialing telephone sampling, while experiencing declining response rates, remains one of the most accurate and cost-effective data collection methods for generating national population-based estimates. However, these methods are not efficient for sampling hard-to-reach populations because the costs of recruiting sample sizes that produce reliable estimates tend to be too costly. The researchers implemented a new respondent-driven sampling approach to oversample cigarette smokers and LGBT people, referring to this approach as RDD+RDS. This sampling approach, adapting the standard random digit dialing methodology, is a practical tool for survey methodologists that provides an efficient strategy for oversampling rare or elusive populations.

Cornacchione Ross, J., King, J., Lazard, A., Noar, S., Reboussin, B., Jensen, D., & Sutfin, E. (2021). Developing pictorial cigarillo warnings: Insights from focus groups. Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The Food and Drug Administration selected six text-only warnings for cigarillos to be added to packaging and advertising. Pictorial warnings are more effective at discouraging cigarette use than text-only warnings, yet no research exists for cigarillos. The researchers sought to understand what types of images might be most effectively paired with the cigarillo text warnings to inform principles for developing pictorial warnings, with a focus on young adults, who have the highest rate of cigarillo use. In five focus groups with 30 young adult cigarillo users and susceptible nonusers, the researchers identified principles for selecting images to develop pictorial warnings for the six Food and Drug Administration text-only cigarillo warnings. Results showed that young adult cigarillo users and susceptible nonusers preferred images that were graphic and gross, believable, aligned with the warning text and included people. Images that match young adults’ visual expectations of a disease and provoke emotions may be most effective in pictorial warnings. This highlights challenges for developing pictorial warnings for health effects that do not have a visible health consequence.

Mackert, M., Bouchacourt, L., Lazard, A., Wilcox, G., Kemp, D., Kahlor, L. A., George, C., Stewart, B., & Wolfe, J. (2021). Social media conversations about community water fluoridation: Formative research to guide health communication. Journal of Public Health Dentistry.

Community water fluoridation is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Despite this achievement, there are still misunderstandings about the safety of water fluoridation. Previous communication campaigns advocating for this process have been unsuccessful in combating these misunderstandings, suggesting a need for a new way to promote it. To guide research for future campaigns, the researchers analyzed digital conversations regarding community water fluoridation and other forms of fluoride in the state of Texas. The results uncovered eight topics related to water fluoridation. Overall, the analysis showed mixed reactions toward water fluoridation, fluoride toothpaste and children's dental health.

Mediano Stoltze, F., Busey, E., Taillie, L. P. S., & Dillman Carpentier, F. R. (2021). Impact of warning labels on reducing health halo effects of nutrient content claims on breakfast cereal packages: A mixed-measures experiment. Appetite.

Chile recently implemented a food labeling law that requires packaged foods with sugar, saturated fats, sodium and/or calorie content that exceeds government-defined thresholds to carry a front-of-package warning for each excessive nutrient. This law does not prohibit the use of nutrient content marketing claims on packages, as long as the claims do not directly contradict the warnings. However, having nutrient content claims alongside nutrient warnings might send mixed messages, confusing consumers about the overall healthiness of a product. The researchers tested the occurrence of warning labels with that of nutrient content claims in breakfast cereals on Chilean consumers' product perceptions and purchase intentions. Findings show warning labels can reduce, but not eliminate, the influences of nutrient content claims on consumers’ perceptions of a product’s healthiness.

Zhan, M., & Zhao, X. (2021). How stakeholders react to issues with risk implications: Extending a relational perspective of issues management. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management.

The researchers investigated the outcomes of potential risks associated with organizational issues on organizations’ relationships with the public. Experimental results showed that stakeholders' perceived risks led to negative word‐of‐mouth intentions. Fear and anger amplified that negative relationship, while efficacy‐enhancing communication improved it. The researchers recommended crisis and issue managers mitigate stakeholders' negative emotions and use efficacy‐enhancing communication to help stakeholders interpret the risks.

Zhao, X., & Oh, H. J. (2021). What fosters interorganizational frame convergence: Examining a semantic network during the opioid crisis. Public Relations Review.

This study proposed interorganizational frame convergence (IFC), or the extent to which different organizations share interpretations of an issue. Using network analysis, the researchers found that organizations across various sectors created and shared a diversity of frames during the opioid crisis. Results revealed that similar organizational types, the relevance and specificity of their goals, geographic proximity, and organizational mentions positively predicted shared interpretations of an issue.