Partisan Motivated Reasoning and Misinformation in the Media: Is News from Ideologically Uncongenial Sources More Suspicious?

Japanese Journal of Political Science, Vol. 20, Issue 3, pp. 129-142, September 2019

51 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2017 Last revised: 24 Nov 2020

See all articles by Katherine Clayton

Katherine Clayton

Stanford University; Dartmouth College

Jase Davis

Dartmouth College

Kristen Hinckley

Dartmouth College

Yusaku Horiuchi

Dartmouth College - Department of Government

Date Written: April 21, 2019

Abstract

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

Clayton, Katherine and Davis, Jase and Hinckley, Kristen and Horiuchi, Yusaku, Partisan Motivated Reasoning and Misinformation in the Media: Is News from Ideologically Uncongenial Sources More Suspicious? (April 21, 2019). Japanese Journal of Political Science, Vol. 20, Issue 3, pp. 129-142, September 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3035272 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3035272

Katherine Clayton

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Jase Davis

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Kristen Hinckley

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Yusaku Horiuchi (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Department of Government ( email )

204 Silsby Hall
HB 6108
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

HOME PAGE: http://horiuchi.org

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