Perceptions of Newsworthiness are Contaminated by a Political Usefulness Bias
Royal Society Open Science, 2018
12 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2018
Are people’s perceptions of the newsworthiness of events biased by a tendency to rate as more important any news story that seems likely to lead others to share their own political attitudes? To assess this, we created six pairs of hypothetical news stories, each describing an event that seemed likely to encourage people to adopt attitudes on the opposite side of a particular controversial issue (e.g. affirmative action and gay marriage). In total, 569 subjects were asked to evaluate the importance of these stories ‘to the readership of a generalcirculation newspaper’, disregarding how interesting they happened to find the event. Subjects later indicated their own personal attitudes to the underlying political issues. Predicted crossover interactions were confirmed for all six issues. All the interactions took the form of subjects rating stories offering ‘ammunition’ for their own side of the controversial issue as possessing greater intrinsic news importance.
Keywords: judgement, motivated reasoning, political psychology
JEL Classification: A00, A10, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation