Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roxanne Watson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kimberly Golombisky, Ph.D.


mass communication, older population, qualitative, threat, trust


This qualitative research study describes the processing and interpretations of "Baby Boomers" in response to fear appeals from two health care reform political advertisements. Research suggests that scholars continue to disagree on the audience's interpretations of fear appeals, based on studies comparing different levels of fear, emotions, and interpretations by specific members of the population. However, little is known about how "Baby Boomers" interpret fear used in health care reform advertising. The method included six focus groups. Thematic analysis revealed five key themes: "Baby Boomers'" processing produced a range of emotions, they demand more facts, the fear expressed was fear of the unknown and fear of change, how do they know who they can trust and what they can believe, and the shared experience of an "us in comparison to them" mentality. Future research should expand upon these themes across a more diverse group of participants, to compare and contrast findings across different generations, or in combination with other methods.