What Drives Demand for Media Slant?

45 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2017  

Marcel Garz

Institute for Media Economics

Gaurav Sood

Independent

Daniel F. Stone

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics

Justin Wallace

University of Washington, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics, Students

Date Written: July 27, 2017

Abstract

People tend to prefer politically congenial news — news that confirms and supports their prior beliefs and preferences. Many papers assume that this preference is driven by psychological forces: that we want news that “feels good” and/or to avoid news that “feels bad.” Other papers have proposed models showing how the preference for congenial news can stem from this news having greater perceived or actual instrumental information value. We assess these theories empirically by studying how variation in congeniality in news across and within outlets affects demand for news. We exploit two types of news stories that exhibit both types of this variation: horse race stories and stories evaluating the winner of presidential debates. We use both survey-experiment data and observational web data from a variety of outlets. In the survey-experiments, we find some evidence supporting the psychology theory, particularly for right-of-center consumers. In the web data, we find that horse race news is systematically slanted in a way that makes it more congenial to an outlet’s typical reader, but also that (relatively) highly congenial news is usually not more likely to make an outlet’s “most viewed” list, and sometimes less likely to do so. We draw two broad conclusions: 1) unsurprisingly, but in contrast to many economic models, consumers do not make news choices to maximize instrumental value; 2) the general preference for congenial news is not strictly driven by a psychological desire to avoid uncongenial information.

Keywords: Media Bias, Media Slant, Horse Race News, Presidential Debate News, Confirmation Bias, Cognitive Dissonance

JEL Classification: D72, D83

Suggested Citation

Garz, Marcel and Sood, Gaurav and Stone, Daniel F. and Wallace, Justin, What Drives Demand for Media Slant? (July 27, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3009791

Marcel Garz

Institute for Media Economics ( email )

Palazzo Corsini, Via della Lungara 10
Rome, 00153
Italy

Gaurav Sood

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Daniel F. Stone (Contact Author)

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics ( email )

Brunswick, ME 04011
United States
6463387833 (Phone)

Justin Wallace

University of Washington, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Box 353330
Seattle, WA 98195-3330
United States

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