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Metaphors that Communicate Weight-Based Stigma in Political News: A Case Study of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
European Review of Applied Psychology
  • J. Anderson, South Dakota State University
  • Y. Zhu, Michigan State University
  • J. Zhuang, Texas Christian University
  • J.C. Nelson, Central Washington University
  • M.J. Bresnahan, Michigan State University
  • X. Yan, Michigan State University
Document Type
Publication Version
Publication Date
  • communication,
  • politics,
  • stigma,
  • obesity,
  • weight,
  • news media,
  • online news,
  • political communication
News media use metaphors to describe politics (Landau & Keefer, 2014) and obesity (Barry,Brescoll, Brownell, & Schlesinger, 2009). Weight-based stigma is prevalent in U.S. news media (Heuer,McClure, & Puhl, 2011). Media coverage of politicians’ body size may contain metaphors that stigmatizeweight. Metaphors reflect and shape how people think about important issues like politics or obesity(Landau, Sullivan, & Greenberg, 2009; Landau, Meier, & Keefer, 2010; Landau & Keefer, 2014).Objective – This study uses stigma communication theory (Smith, 2007) to examine stigmatizing metaphors used in media coverage of a United States politician, and candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Republican.Method. – We coded n = 240 articles, from January 2011 to December 2014, that referenced Christie’s weight. Considering both the articles and the comments in response to them, we identified n = 246weight references that utilized metaphors and coded these using categories derived from the stigma communication theory framework.Results. – Our coding of these weight references, from journalists and comments posted by the public,demonstrated that metaphors accomplish all four functions of stigma communication: they mark, label,assign personal responsibility, and link to peril the stigmatized person.Conclusion. – Our findings demonstrate not only that news media use metaphors to describe a politician’s weight, but also show how these metaphors — alone and together — function to constitute stigma communication messages. These messages can affect public opinions toward politics and obesity.
DOI of Published Version

This is the post-print author(s) manuscript of a work that was published in European Review of Applied Psychology DOI: This item is posted with permission.

Citation Information
J. Anderson, Y. Zhu, J. Zhuang, J.C. Nelson, et al.. "Metaphors that Communicate Weight-Based Stigma in Political News: A Case Study of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie" European Review of Applied Psychology (2017)
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