Perceptions of bias in a changing media environment: the hostile media effect for objective and ideological media Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Dunn, Scott Wilson
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • This dissertation broadens scholarly understanding of perceptions of media bias by examining the hostile media effect in the context of explicitly ideological media. The hostile media effect states that people who have strong attitudes on a given issue will perceive media coverage of that issue as hostile to their attitudes, even while people with the opposing attitude may see the same coverage as biased in the other direction. However, most previous research on the hostile media effect has been based on stimuli that ostensibly come from traditional mainstream media sources that profess to uphold a standard of objectivity. This study incorporated stimulus articles said to come from media sources with explicit conservative or liberal biases. The study found that, for an article about abortion, participants tended to base their perceptions of bias on the media outlet's explicit ideology. However, for an article about the economy, participants who supported government intervention to solve economic problems perceived the article as biased regardless of the media outlet's stated ideology, lending partial support to the traditional hostile media effect. In addition to testing the differences in perceived bias for ideological and neutral media, this study also tested a number of antecedents and consequences that have been identified in previous research on the hostile media effect. For both articles, perceptions of general media bias predicted perceptions that the articles and their media outlet were biased. Group identification, attitude extremity, connection between attitudes and moral conviction, media cynicism, and political tolerance did not predict perceptions of bias. For the abortion article, perceived bias predicted perceptions of how credible and informative the media outlet was and perceptions of public opinion about abortion, but not how interesting the media outlet was or levels of general media indignation. For the economy article, perceived bias predicted all perceptions of how credible, informative, and interesting the media outlet was, but not media indignation or perceived public opinion. Implications of these findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication."
  • Johnston, Anne
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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