Partisan Motivated Reasoning and Misinformation in the Media: Is News from Ideologically Uncongenial Sources More Suspicious?
Japanese Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming
51 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2017 Last revised: 1 May 2019
Date Written: April 21, 2019
In recent years, concerns about misinformation in the media have skyrocketed. President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that various news outlets are disseminating "fake news" for political purposes. But when the information contained in mainstream media news reports provides no clear clues about its truth value nor any indication of a partisan slant, do people rely on the congeniality of the news outlet to judge whether the information is true or false? In a survey experiment, we presented partisans (Democrats and Republicans) and ideologues (liberals and conservatives) with a news article excerpt that varied by source shown (CNN, Fox News, or no source) and content (true or false information), and measured their perceived accuracy of the information contained in the article. Our results suggest that participants do not blindly judge the content of articles based on news source, regardless of their own partisanship and ideology. Contrary to prevailing views on the polarization and politicization of news outlets, as well as on voters' growing propensity to engage in "partisan motivated reasoning," source cues are not as important as the information itself for partisans on both sides of the aisle.
Keywords: motivated reasoning, source cues, media bias, misinformation, misperceptions, Trump
JEL Classification: L82, D72, D80, D83, D91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation