August 30, 2016

REALITY CAN'T PENETRATE THE BUBBLE; YOU'LL NEED TO LEAVE IT:

A tale of two GDPs: Why Republicans and Democrats live in different economic realities (Ian Anson, 8/28/16, tHE cONVERSATION)

In a recent paper published in Political Research Quarterly, I tested competing expectations about the ways media can convince partisans to engage in motivated reasoning. The study examines the conditions under which partisans internalize their preferred "facts."

The Cooperative Congressional Election Study is a massive survey project put together by more than 50 research teams nationwide. I presented survey-takers with one of five randomly assigned articles about the economy during the 2014 wave of the study. These stories were designed to mimic the type of content they might see when visiting a partisan news source. Some of the articles presented readers with "just the (congenial) facts": these survey-takers saw a news story showing either optimistic or gloomy economic data. Others saw stories that presented these facts paired with statements blaming or praising President Barack Obama for the trend. These latter treatments make survey-takers highly aware of the agenda of the story's author - especially if they identify as partisans.

Just as expected, Republicans and Democrats in the study were most likely to learn from the news story when it reinforced their own worldview. Republican Reba believed the bad news, while Denny the Democrat believed the good news.

The surprising finding was that this pattern only held for the "just the facts" news stories - not the overtly partisan ones. In other words, partisans enjoy cheerleading for their party but are even more strongly affected by news stories that appear to be highly objective. When asked to report whether they thought the economy in the past year had gotten better or worse, partisans in these treatment conditions were significantly more likely than others to give the party-congenial response.

In the 2016 campaign, we have seen plenty of examples of overt partisan jeering when pundits discuss economic conditions. The study's results suggest that people are actually not very likely to digest economic information from such overtly partisan reports. Instead, the most powerful tool for affecting how we perceive the economy is the subtle process of agenda-setting.

As studies of media slant have reliably shown, agenda-setting is widespread in today's media marketplace. By consistently presenting economic facts that agree with the partisan narrative, free of any overt partisan language, slanted sources can subtly adjust citizens' beliefs about the way the economy is going.

Posted by at August 30, 2016 7:26 PM

  

« THE MIGHTY CALIPHATE WAR MACHINE: | Main | A WORD TO THE WISE...: »