Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Americans Choose Media Messages That Agree With Their Views

Date:
May 29, 2009
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
A new study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that Americans prefer to read political articles that agree with the opinions they already hold. Researchers found that people spent 36 percent more time reading articles that agreed with their point of view than they did reading text that challenged their opinions.

A new study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that Americans prefer to read political articles that agree with the opinions they already hold.

Related Articles


Researchers found that people spent 36 percent more time reading articles that agreed with their point of view than they did reading text that challenged their opinions.

Even when they did read articles that countered their views, participants almost always balanced that with reading others that confirmed their opinions.

The study is important because it is one of the first to record what people actually read and link these findings to their views on the same topics.

“We found that people generally chose media messages that reinforced their own preexisting views,” said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University.

“In general, they don’t want their views to be challenged by seriously considering other viewpoints.”

Knobloch-Westerwick conducted the study with Jingbo Meng, a former master’s degree student in communication at Ohio State. Their results appear in the June 2009 issue of the journal Communication Research.

Other studies have tried to examine whether people selectively choose to focus on media messages that agree with their viewpoints, but most of this research had serious shortcomings, she said.

Many studies, for example, have asked people to recall what they read or watched, rather than actually recording their habits. And unlike many other studies, this research examined people’s opinions about specific political topics, instead of general party or candidate preferences.

The study involved 156 undergraduate students at an American university. In the first of two sessions conducted for the study, the participants were asked their views concerning four hot-button topics: gun ownership, abortion, health care regulation and the minimum wage. They were also asked about 13 other issues that were simply put in to cover the fact that the researchers were interested in these four issues.

Six weeks later, the students were invited to participate in another study, supposedly unrelated to the first. In this case, they went to a computer lab, where they were asked to give their impressions of a new online magazine. The online magazine had pro and con articles on the four topics that they were questioned about in the first session. All the articles had headlines that clearly indicated what position they were advocating.

Participants were told they did not have time to read all the articles, so they should just choose which articles they found interesting, as they would normally with a magazine. They were also told they didn’t have to read whole articles. They were then given five minutes to read.

The key for this portion of the study was that the computers had a software program that unobtrusively recorded which articles they clicked on and how much time they spent with each article.

“We actually observed people’s behavior and didn’t just ask them what they read,” Knobloch-Westerwick said.

The results showed that participants clicked on an average of 1.9 articles that agreed with their views, and 1.4 articles that didn’t. The participants had a 58 percent likelihood of picking an article that supported their viewpoint, versus 43 percent likelihood of choosing an article challenging their beliefs.

Participants were most likely to read only articles that were consistent with their views, the study showed. Next most common was reading both views on an issue. Very few people only clicked on articles that opposed their views.

The study found that people with a stronger party affiliation, conservative political views, and greater interest in politics were the ones most likely to click on articles with opposing viewpoints.

“It appears that people with these characteristics are more confident in their views and so they’re more inclined to at least take a quick look at the counterarguments,” she said. “Even if they click on opposing views, they’re not looking for insights that might change their mind.”

People who reported that they read news more frequently, on the other hand, were more likely to avoid opposing viewpoints.

“People have more media choices these days, and they can choose to only be exposed to messages that agree with their current beliefs,” Knobloch-Westerwick said.

And that has real-world implications, she said.

“If you only pay attention to messages you agree with, that can make you more extreme in your viewpoints, because you never consider the other side,” she said.

Many media outlets today specialize in shrill, harsh commentary that demonizes opposing viewpoints. If that is all that people hear, it can reduce political tolerance and make compromise less likely.

“That may be one reason for the increasing polarization of American voters,” she said.

“Citizens really should be weighing and monitoring diverse arguments in order to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, that’s not happening as often as it should.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Americans Choose Media Messages That Agree With Their Views." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528110625.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2009, May 29). Americans Choose Media Messages That Agree With Their Views. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528110625.htm
Ohio State University. "Americans Choose Media Messages That Agree With Their Views." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528110625.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
EU Pushes Google For Worldwide Right To Be Forgotten

EU Pushes Google For Worldwide Right To Be Forgotten

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) Privacy regulators recommend Google expand its requested removals to apply to all its web domains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) T-Mobile and the FCC have reached an agreement requiring the company to alert customers when it throttles their data speeds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins