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Data and Elections

featured / blog / in the news / voting

There has been quite a bit of media coverage this week about the long lines that occurred at the polls in Maricopa County, Arizona during the recent primary elections. The questions raised include whether the lines were caused by having too few voting locations and confusion over new voter identification requirements. However, the bigger issue was likely a lack of staffing at the polling locations and lack of care in selecting where to locate the polls.

In our book Evaluating Elections: A Handbook of Methods and Standards, Michael Alvarez, Lonna Atkeson, and I discuss how simple data analysis can help local election offices avoid making simple election mistakes. A simple review of the historical data for Maricopa County suggests that having... more

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Entertainment Education for Creatively Changing Health Behaviors

featured / communication research / public health / advertising / communication

After seeing the Academy Award-winning movie The Big Short, I completely agree with the praise the film received at the Oscars for distilling complicated economic concepts into terms that regular folks like you and I can understand. The Big Short is just one example of how entertainment media can be successful in educating people—not despite the fact it's entertaining but rather because it's entertaining.

Entertainment education is a communication strategy in which theories of communication, education, psychology, and drama are used to create an education and behavior change message for addressing social issues. That message is then woven into an appealing and persuasive media format to reach a specific media audience.

Entertainment education has been used in countries around the world to successfully increase... more

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Tomorrow is Super Tuesday - do you feel pressure to vote?

featured / voting / elections / public perception / social psychology

The New York Times wrote recently about so called "vote shaming" mailers that had been sent to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire by one of the Republican candidates (or their surrogates). These mailers show the voting record of the individual and their neighbors and inform the recipient that an updated mailing will be sent after the election showing who voted and who did not. The idea is that a person will be motivated to vote to avoid a perception of dereliction of duty by members of their community.

Without wading into the politics of the issue - whether a political candidate should send out the exact fliers that have been sent to voters - it is interesting to consider the... more

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Deadpool not the only antihero in town - Communication's role in the Zika virus narrative

featured / communication research / public health / advertising

"Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story." Deadpool. There's just something about an R-rated, violent, off-color, superhero movie that screams: risk communication and public health. No, it's just me?

Everyone has a favorite antihero though. Same story (even if self-mocking), different kind of character. Communication too can find itself unexpectedly taking center stage in public health crisis response narratives often dominated by medicine and natural sciences. For example, communication was a theme of last year's WHO leadership statement on the Ebola response.

We have learned the importance of communication - of communicating risks early, of communicating more clearly what is needed, and of involving communities and their leaders in the messaging…We will communicate better. We commit... more

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From "Netflix & Chill Night" to StonerSloth - The Road to (Messaging) Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

featured / communication research / public health / advertising

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. And sometimes bad things happen to good causes. One day you're celebrating a new campaign and the next you're pulling an ad after a segment on the Daily Show calls attention to the inherent (or sometimes unanticipated) risk associated with the messaging strategy.

Daily Show Don't Jerk

Take last week for example. Suddenly everyone seemed to be as enthusiastic about alcohol messaging as we are. A recently released infographic intended to raise awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders had struck a chord - but, unfortunately as it turned out, not in a good way. Reactions like shaming, shady, scare tactics, condescending, and offensive certainly would have been red... more

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Spreading the Word… Not the Zika Virus- Tips from Health and Risk Communicators

featured / communication research / public health / risk communication

If you've seen the news lately (or Twitter for that matter) you've probably heard about what the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling a public health emergency - a mosquito-borne illness called the Zika virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and until recently, outbreaks have mostly occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. However, a recent "explosion" of infections in parts of Latin America - as well as a reported linkage between the virus and a severe birth defect known as microcephaly - has caught the attention of the world.

On Monday, the Director-General of the WHO urged... more

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