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Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting

Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?


Author: Paul Hayes

Abstract. The problem under study was to explore the correlation between propensity of
youths to enlist in the Army, cable news coverage of the War on Terror and the Bush
Administrations approval rating with regards to the War on Terror overseas. The time period
covered by this study was February of 2002 through August of 2006. Enlistment data was
gathered from the Department of Defense Youth Poll Report of 2005. Cable news content was
gathered by coding CNN transcripts. Approval ratings data was gathered using Quinnipiac
University polling data.
The findings of this study show that as Administration approval ratings declined, the propensity
of youths to serve remained constant. Additionally, there was not enough data to support a
correlation between coverage of the War on Terror, Administration approval ratings, and the
propensity of youths to serve.
As a result of this study, more research is required to determine if cable news coverage indeed
influences the propensity of youths to serve in the Army.
Problem Background. According to a recent Defense Department Study, since 9/11,
recruiters have been facing an uphill battle(JAMRS, 1-1). As recently as last year, the US Army
missed multiple quotas over multiple quarters for the first time in decades. In the JAMRS Youth
Poll Report(2005), analysts recognized that media has an influence on the willingness of youths
to enlist in the Army. In this study, however, it was not stated what the impact of this influence
was. Therefore, the purpose of my study was to answer the following questions.
1. Has the propensity of youths to serve in the Army increased, decreased, or stayed the same
between November 2001 and June 2006?
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

2. Has the tone of cable news military coverage for overseas ground operations become more
positive, less positive, or remained neutral between November 2001 and June 2006?
3. Has the Bush Administrations approval ratings with regards to the handling of the war on
terror overseas increased, decreased or stayed the same between November 2001 and June
2006?
These questions were all chosen to answer the primary question of this study: Is there a
correlation between the propensity of youths to serve in the Army, cable news coverage of the
war on terror overseas, and the Bush Administrations approval ratings?
Definition of Terms
Propensity to Serve. Propensity is defined as the likelihood that a youth will enlist in the Army
in the next few years. In this study, youths were considered propensed if they responded with
definitely or probably when asked the question, How likely is it that you will be serving on
active duty in the Army?
Youths. Youths are those between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.
Approval ratings. Approval ratings were measured using Qunnipiac University nationwide polls.
The poll question used was, Do you approve of President Bushs handling of the War on Terror
overseas?
Cable news coverage. Cable news coverage was defined as any CNN show to include Lou
Dobbs, Larry King Live, The Situation Room, and Anderson Cooper.
Changes in propensity changed since November 2001 .
The impact of 9/11 was first felt within the Armed Forces when major combat operations began
in November of 2001. Since that time, the DOD has conducted Youth Survey Polls since April
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

2001. This study looked at the propensity to serve since November 2001. The data shows that
the propensity to serve in the Army has not changed significantly since November 2001.
0%
2%
4%
6%
8%
10%
12%
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5
M
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5
Propensity to Serve
(% Willing to Join Army)

Tone of News Coverage.
Media has an impact on the attitudes of youth towards the military. The JAMRS Youth Study
and recent US Army Recruiting Command study recognized this impact. Both these studies
concluded that for the last five years, television serves as the largest contributor to sources of
impression about the military. But how much do youths rely on television news for these
impressions? According to the JAMRS 2005 study, youths rely on cable news a majority of the
time for their impressions of the military on television.
Therefore, this study attempted to determine whether these cable news shows reflect the
military in a positive, negative, or neutral light. To answer this question, a search was conducted
on Lexis / Nexis online. The search identified CNN broadcasts between November 2001 and
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

June 2006 that contained references to the U.S. Army, troops, or war. This search
generated a sample of 624 cable news transcripts. The search was then narrowed to a 30 day
period immediately preceding the release of a Quinnipiac poll pertaining to approval ratings of
President Bush. This search yielded approximately 20 transcripts per month. The sample was
again narrowed. Using a random number generator, two transcripts per month were selected
yielding a total sample of 34.
Once the sample was identified, a method of coding was defined. Coding the coverage as
positive, negative, or neutral was accomplished by first scanning the articles for words. Articles
from outside the sample were selected that exemplified extremely positive and negative coverage
of the War on Terror. A broadcast that portrayed soldiers conducting a campaign to collect and
distribute school supplies in Iraq was selected as the positive example. A broadcast that
discussed the ambush and death of American Soldiers at As-Nasariah was selected as an example
of negative coverage. Words in both examples were identified that helped set the broadcast's
tone. Some examples of this lexicon are:
Positive Lexicon Negative Lexicon
morale boost doubt
hard working debacle
cheers hazard
elite heavy casualties
honing erupt
advantage devastating
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

cutting edge protests
unchallenged denial
popular mislead
liberate disparaging
proud deadly
rest shameful
relaxing grim
Once this lexicon was determined, a content analysis was conducted on the 34 broadcast
transcripts. If more than five of the positive lexicon were mentioned in a broadcast, it was coded
as positive. If more than five of the negative lexicon were used, it was coded as negative. If
less than five in either category were used than the story was coded as neutral. A negative
coding received a value of -5, a positive received a 5 and a neutral received a 0. The results of
the coding are as follows:
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4

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6

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1
0

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0
3
2
6

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5

M
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0
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2
6

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0
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1
6

D
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0
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6

D
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0
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9

A
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0
6
Cable News Tone

Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

Changes in Approval Ratings
Since 9/11, Quinnipiac University has conducted polls measuring public opinion of the
Presidents handling of the War on Terror. Both DoD and US Army Recruiting Command
recognized the importance of measuring the opinions of parents and potential recruits towards
the government. In fact, USAREC stated in its August 2006 State of the Youth Market study
that parents of recruits play a key role in a recruits decision and these influencers remain, wary
and vocal as a result of the handling of the war on terror. What then, has been the publics
attitude towards the Presidents handling of the War on Terror. To answer this question, I
selected the Quinnipiac University national poll as my data source. This poll is conducted
nationally and is well recognized. Of the 43 polls conducted between 22 FEB 02 and 29 AUG
06, only 17 of these polls asked the question, Do you approve of the Presidents handling of the
War on Terror overseas? The following data was gathered from this sample of 17.
Date Approve Disapprove DK/DR
22-Feb-02 81 14 5
4-Feb-03 60 35 5
6-Mar-03 57 35 8
16-Apr-03 79 18 3
11-Jun-03 63 31 6
24-Jul-03 52 43 5
17-Sep-03 51 43 6
29-Oct-03 45 50 5
10-Dec-03 46 48 6
26-Jan-04 52 40 7
5-May-04 42 51 6
26-May-04 41 54 5
16-Dec-04 41 55 4
6-Dec-05 36 60 3
2-Mar-06 36 60 4
1-Jun-06 36 61 4
29-Aug-06 40 54 5

Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

Graphically, the approval ratings appear to decline over the 17 polls. In fact, approval ratings
declined 50 percent over a period of 55 months.
Approval Ratings of the President's Handling of the War n Terror
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
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Quinnipiac Poll Dates
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Conclusions
This study attempted to determine if there was a correlation between cable news coverage of
the war, approval ratings, and a willingness to serve. In essence, does the tone of media
coverage impact approval ratings and, in turn, impact a youths willingness to serve? After
reviewing all data, there is enough evidence to support the following conclusions.
1. Approval ratings and tone of coverage declined over the same time period. A larger
sample of cable news transcripts and a more rigorous coding process would be required to
see if these two sets of data correlate.
2. As approval ratings and tone of coverage declined, willingness to serve in the Army
remained constant. With only six polls of youth available over the 55-month period of
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

analysis, more polling data is needed to confirm that willingness to serve in the Army has
actually remained constant.
3. There is no correlation between willingness to serve, approval ratings and cable news tone.
Tone of Cable News Coverage vs. Approval Ratings vs.
Willingness to Serve in Army
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Approval Rating
Willing to Serve in Army
Neutral tone
Negative tone
Positive tone

Lessons Learned and Questions for Further Investigation.
This study was difficult to conduct due to the breath of the subject. From all my research,
there are a number of factors that impact a youths willingness to serve in the Army. Youths of
today gain much of their impressions about the military from cable news. More importantly,
however, they rely on the opinions of key influencers to make their final decisions. These
influencers (coaches, parents, teachers, relatives) have far greater impact on a youths decision
than CNN. For future investigation, what media do these influencers rely upon for their
impressions of the military? How does media coverage impact on their impressions? Another
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

lesson learned from this study was that coding transcripts of cable news coverage is difficult.
Ignored were the images and sounds coupled with the transcripts. In the future, tapes as well as
transcripts need to be analyzed for a more complete coding of the coverage. Additionally, a
more rigorous coding system needs to be adopted. I coded on a scale of 1-3. As a result, a piece
was coded as positive, neutral, or negative. In fact, stories cover a much more broad range of
tone. For example, within the negative category, a story can be hostile, inflammatory, or slightly
negative. In the future, adopting a coding system where a story can be coded from 1-6 would be
ideal. This method would also require a larger sample than evaluated for this project.
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

Key authors and or sources:
1. JAMRS Youth Poll Report, June 2005
Directory Link: Recruiting\Youth_Poll_9.pdf
2. Army State of the Youth Market Report, US Army Accessions Command, AUG 2006
Directory Link: Recruiting\CAR State of the Youth Market 14Aug06 .ppt
3. Army Experiences Minority Woes. Advertising Age, 2/28/2005, Vol 76 Issue 9, p18
Directory Link: Recruiting\Minority woes.doc
4. Effectiveness of Advertising in Different Media, The Case of US Army Recruiting, James N.
Dertouzos and Steven Garber. Journal of Advertising, VOL 35, No 2(Summer 2006) pps 111-
122
Directory Link: Recruiting\22149272.pdf
5. JAMRS Educator Poll Report, June 2005
Directory Link: Recruiting\educator_study.pdf
6. Quinnipiac Polls
Link: Quinnipiac University | Polling Institute
7. Opinion Polls via LexusNexis (keywords approval, terrorism)
Link: LexisNexis(TM) Academic Search Page
8. US Air War College Mass Media Research Page
Link: Military Media Relations, mass media, mass communications, Issues, military and the
media, Joint, Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps Public Affairs
9. The Best (PR) War Ever, Bill Berkowitz, Inter Press Service September 15, 2006
Link: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/media/2006/0915bestwarever.htm
Applying Communications Research to Army Recruiting
Is the news coverage of the war effecting willingness to serve?
Author: Paul Hayes

10. Army Tries Private Pitch For Recruits, Renee Merle, Washington Post
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; Page A01
Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2006/09/05/AR2006090501508.html