The opinion factor: The effects of opinionated news on information processing and attitude change

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Abstract

The recent growth in opinionated cable news, in which the anchor expresses a clear political point of view, has aroused concerns about its potential polarizing effects on public opinion. Key to uncovering opinionated news' impact on public opinion is an understanding of how partisan audiences process opinionated news: Do the overt partisan cues in opinionated news stimulate biased processing, thereby enhancing attitude polarization among opposing partisans relative to non-opinionated news? Or are opinionated news messages processed uniformly by partisans, contributing to direct persuasion? Two online experiments tested the effects of news opinionation-and interactions with individual political partisanship-on information processing and attitude change. Results from both studies most clearly support a model of direct persuasion. Message processing and attitude change follow the direction of the news' opinionation, with little variation by partisanship, offering no evidence that opinionated news intensifies attitude differences among partisans relative to non-opinionated news. Implications for theories of political information processing and democratic politics are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-181
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Communication
Volume28
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • Cable news
  • Information processing
  • Opinionated news
  • Persuasion
  • Polarization

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