Racing For A Cure

23 04 2012

The following is a press release I wrote detailing the initial findings from our nationwide study of the Susan G. Komen controversy.

On January 31, 2012, the Susan G. Komen (SGK) announced it was pulling its grants for breast-cancer screening from Planned Parenthood. A firestorm of activity ensued, first among critics, and then later as supporters derided SGK’s decision to reverse the policy change. Since then, SGK has been faced with up to 30-percent reductions in both donations and event participation.

Within three days of SGK’s initial decision, the MediaBuffs research team had created and launched a nationwide survey to measure attitudes toward, and intentions to donate to, the non-profit. MediaBuffs consists of Dr. Kristina Drumheller (Assistant Professor of Communication) and Dr. R. Nicholas Gerlich (Professor of Marketing), both of West Texas AM University.

The survey was made available through Facebook and Twitter, as well as via a clearinghouse operated by Amazon.com. Within 48 hours, a sample of approximately 350 respondents was collected; after incomplete surveys were culled, a usable sample of 276 was available for data analysis.

Numerous demographics and measures were collected, including belief in a Supreme Being, spirituality, worship service attendance, political preference, age, ethnicity and gender. The primary theoretical portion of the study utilized the Theory of Planned Behavior, in which MediaBuffs researchers customized established measurement scales to assess participant attitudes toward Susan G. Komen following the incident, as well as plans to avoid donating to them.

“By launching the survey so quickly, we were able to take the pulse of the American public while the subject was top-of-mind,” Drumheller said. “Using Facebook and Twitter to attract survey participants meant we were using the very same media that people were using to voice their comments about the matter.”

The results showed there to be no significant differences based on gender or age, indicating that the politicization of the issue was not viewed differently between men and women, nor by different age cohorts.

Significant differences were reported, though, along dimensions ranging from education level to various measures of religiosity. Among those with an undergraduate degree or higher, there were significantly lower intentions and plans to avoid donating to SGK than among those with less than an undergraduate education. These two groups, however, showed similar attitudes toward SGK.

Aspects of religiosity, though, uncovered many significant differences. For example, those who did not report believing in a Supreme Being had significantly lower attitudes toward, and significantly higher plans to avoid donating to, SGK. These results were echoed among those professing little or no spirituality versus moderate or high levels of spirituality, and frequent (once per week or more) versus infrequent worship service attendees.

Finally, political preference was examined with relation to these constructs, with those identifying as Republicans having significantly higher attitudes toward, and lower intentions and plans to avoid donating to, SGK than did those identifying as either Democratic, Independent or Libertarian.

“The results point to a very polarized general public,” Gerlich noted. “Furthermore, this polarization is one based primarily on political and religious preferences. It remains to be seen whether this division will last into the longer term,” he added. “For now, though, the results of our study help explain what is happening with regard to current donations and race participation.”

MediaBuffs is a consortium comprised of research principals Dr. Kristina Drumheller (Assistant Professor of Communication), and Dr. R. Nicholas Gerlich (Professor of Marketing and Department Head). Both are on the faculty at West Texas A&M University. They conduct academic and marketing research online at mediabuffs.org, as well as in the classroom and offsite for clients. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Associates from WTAMU and other institutions join them on selected projects.

Dr “Race Ready” Gerlich


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