Media Exposure, Anticipated Stigma, and Spiritual Well-Being in the LGBTQ+ Population Following the 2016 Presidential Election

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Exposure to negative media messages related to LGBTQ+ issues have been associated with negative affect, depression, stress, and psychological distress among that population (e.g. Rotosky, Riggle, Horne, & Miller, 2009). Frost and Fingerhut (2016) have suggested that this exposure to negative media messages is a form of distal minority stress, which has been theorized to contribute to anticipated stigma or unfair treatment (Meyer, 2003). Thus, in the present study, we predicted that individuals who were exposed to more negative messages in the media will have more negative feelings about the election, report more anxiety and fear, and anticipate more discrimination due to their LGBT identity. Further, we hypothesized that negative feelings about the election would relate to more anxiety, fear, anticipated discrimination. However, because connection with the LGBTQ+ community and spiritual well-being have been associated with better mental health (Pflum et al., 2015; Greenfield et al., 2009), the current study explored whether community connection and spirituality relate to the other relations tested. Participants (N = 207) were recruited online through various social media platforms and participated in an online survey using Survey Monkey. The survey included the following measures: the Exposure to Negative Campaign Messages (adapted; Frost & Fingerhut, 2016), a self-created Presidential Election 2016 Response Questionnaire, Discrimination Scale (adapted; Kessler, Mickelson, and Williams, 1999), Connectedness to the LGBT Community Scale (Frost & Meyer, 2012), State-Trait Anxiety Form for Adults (Form Y1; Spielberg, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1977), Fear and Sense of Control Scale (Salcioglu, Urhan, Pirinccioglu, & Aydin, 2016), Spiritual Index of Well-Being Scale (Daaleman & Frey, 2004), Centrality Scale (Quinn, Williams, Quintana, Gaskins, & Pishori, 2014), and questions about frequently used social media sites. Results revealed, contrary to our hypotheses, that more negative messages in the media was not significantly related to negative feelings about the presidential election, r = .05, p = .524, or state-trait anxiety, r = .079, p = .341. In support of our hypotheses, negative feelings about the presidential election were significantly related to more anticipated discrimination in everyday life, r = .631, p < .001, state-trait anxiety, r = .577, p < .001, and fear, r = .663, p < .001. Exploratory analyses revealed that those with more negative feelings about the election felt less connected to the LGBTQ+ community, r = -.224, p = .001, and had a lower spiritual life schema, r = -.362, p < .001. Additional exploratory findings highlight the possibility that spiritual well-being may moderate the effect of being exposed to negative media messages and should be examined more specifically in the future. In sum, feelings resulting from media exposure may be more influential to mental health than media exposure itself.


Johnson City, TN

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