A Balanced News Diet, Not Selective Exposure: Evidence from a Direct Measure of Media Exposure
38 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2012 Last revised: 11 Nov 2015
Date Written: September 28, 2015
This study provides the first direct assessment of the extent to which citizens encounter news and opinion challenging their political views via mass media. The widely accepted conjecture that people refuse to hear the other side is based upon self-reports of media exposure, rather than direct observation of it. In light of this long-acknowledged limitation, I leverage unique data tracking partisanship as well as actual exposure to media collected 24/7 via passive tracking devices. Contrary to previous understandings, the vast majority of citizens consume predominately centrist information, while frequently encountering ideological programming challenging their views. In fact, the best predictor of how much conservative news you watch is how much liberal news you watch, regardless of partisanship. The demonstration of widespread exposure to diverse viewpoints challenges claims asserting that resistance to political influence occurs at the exposure stage of the persuasion process.
Keywords: selective exposure, news, media effects, media slant, audience measurement
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation