Sources of Negative Attitudes Toward the News Media: Horse Race Coverage, Tabloid Coverage, and the Neglected Role of Elite Opinion Leadership
Jonathan McDonald Ladd
Georgetown University - Department of Government
June 12, 2008
Americans' attitudes toward the news media as an institution have become dramatically more negative over the past 40 years. This has led to considerable discussion about what causes people to dislike the media. Using a survey experiment to manipulate the considerations respondents use when evaluating the press, I find, consistent with the broader literature on political persuasion but not with most scholarship on attitudes toward the media, that elite opinion leadership can powerfully shape these opinions. Additionally, I find that horse race coverage creates antipathy toward the press among politically aware citizens on both sides of the political spectrum and that tabloid coverage has a small negative effect on opinions regardless of predispositions. Contrary to some claims in the literature, I find no detectable effect of news negativity.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: Public opinion, mass media, trust, political communication
JEL Classification: C90
Date posted: July 2, 2008
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