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"Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

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  • "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

    Maybe there should be a 'Human Behavior' category...

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...0.01525.x/full

    This experiment tests effects of passive, neutral reporting of contradictory factual claims on audiences. Exposure to such reporting is found to affect a new self-efficacy construct developed in this study called epistemic political efficacy (EPE), which taps confidence in one's own ability to determine truth in politics. Measurement of EPE is found to be reliable and valid, and effects of neutral reporting on it are found to be conditional on prior interest in the issues under dispute. Implications of this effect and of EPE are discussed. Self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1982) suggests these short-term effects may accumulate over time. EPE may affect outcomes related to political understanding, opinion formation, and information seeking.

    Many have criticized modern journalism for playing too passive a role in factual disputes (Cunningham, 2003; Durham, 1998; Jamieson & Waldman, 2003; Rosen, 1993; Streckfuss, 1990). As a result of a number of factors, but most importantly newsroom cost-cutting, faster news cycles, and fear of “going out on a limb,” mainstream American journalism has become drastically more passive over the past few decades (Anderson, 2004; Jamieson & Waldman, 2003; McChesney, 1999, 2004; Patterson, 2000; Plasser, 2005). Although the proliferation of news outlets creates the appearance that journalism is thriving, fewer reporter-hours are devoted to each story, leaving less time for journalists to do their homework (Jamieson & Waldman, 2003). As a result, journalists often resort to “he said/she said” reporting, in which even when two sides make directly contradictory claims about a verifiable factual question, the reporter leaves it as an exercise for the reader to do the additional homework necessary to resolve the dispute (e.g., reading the text of a bill, checking transcripts or recordings of a speech, and questioning an expert or an eyewitness).

    One alarming possible consequence of such reporting is a trend toward increased levels of factual disagreement across party lines, with factual belief differences perhaps even replacing inherently subjective value differences as the primary basis of partisan polarization (Shapiro & Bloch-Elkon, 2008). Shapiro and Bloch-Elkon point out that this has consequences for the health of a democracy because it indicates incorrect factual beliefs among partisans on one side or the other. However, effects of passive journalism may not be limited to the partisan faithful or to specific incorrect beliefs. It would be perfectly understandable for someone caught between two rapidly diverging partisan versions of reality to disengage from politics out of a profound sense of inefficacy about what to believe. This article develops and validates a measure of this feeling of inefficacy about political truth, while also testing effects of passive versus active journalism on it. The self-efficacy construct developed here, epistemic political efficacy (EPE), is a form of confidence in one's own ability to determine the truth about factual aspects of politics. Although political efficacy is confidence in one's ability to affect politics, EPE is a form of confidence in one's ability to understand it. As such, this construct may be a missing communication counterpart to one of the most widely useful constructs in political science, promising to improve our understanding of information seeking, opinion formation, political learning, and other understanding-oriented citizen behaviors and cognitions.

    Along with this novel dependent variable, also thought to be of potential utility to communication researchers is the novel independent variable in this study, which is whether a news story actively adjudicates factual disputes or passively reports a “he said/she said” story. There has been almost no research on how this affects audiences. Despite urgent alarms about the decline or even the death of journalism as an effective watchdog over government and more generally as a guardian of honesty and accuracy in our national discussion (e.g., Nichols & McChesney, 2009), research has told us little about how the resulting changes in the content of news stories actually affects audiences. This study aims to pave the way for more research into these effects, demonstrating how journalistic adjudication can be a tractable experimental manipulation by isolating it from balance, story length, and the number of facts presented. Past work is mostly theoretical or content analytic and tends not to even theorize possible psychological consequences for audience members in any depth, framing the problem instead as a failure to keep political elites honest. A partial exception comes from research on science and health reporting, in which many have pointed out how balanced journalism can allow corporations to “manufacture uncertainty” about questions such as the health consequences of smoking or the link between human activity and climate change (for a review see Michaels & Monforton, 2005). This research has focused on specific uncertainty about the particular questions under dispute, and the concept of manufacturing uncertainty is usually thought of as limited to realms of expert knowledge. This study extends this concept in two key directions: into the realm of everyday political facts that ordinary journalists should be able to check for themselves and beyond specific uncertainty about any particular facts under dispute to a broader, generalized sense of political uncertainty (epistemic political inefficacy).


  • #2
    Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

    In Cairo they staged an anti-sectarian rally. Do Americanos, including the press, even know what that is?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

      Maybe once enough people stop voting for "the lesser of two evils," then the occasional wasted vote candidate that is, in fact, the "best" from most perspectives will emerge as victor. Voter apathy is a very good thing in my opinion. The last thing we need is a fourth Bush term, just because the uninformed can feel excited about him, after all.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

        Originally posted by Ghent12
        Maybe once enough people stop voting for "the lesser of two evils," then the occasional wasted vote candidate that is, in fact, the "best" from most perspectives will emerge as victor. Voter apathy is a very good thing in my opinion. The last thing we need is a fourth Bush term, just because the uninformed can feel excited about him, after all.
        I think you're misunderstanding the implications of the study.

        What it says is, if the undecided are made apathetic by 'fair and balanced' reporting, then they just don't participate.

        This in turn opens the field for the most radical subsect which has the greatest relative representation.

        Or in other words - by having most people be apathetic - those with the least agenda to further, the results wind up being controlled by the most radical.

        Hardly a good situation I'd think.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

          Originally posted by c1ue View Post
          I think you're misunderstanding the implications of the study.

          What it says is, if the undecided are made apathetic by 'fair and balanced' reporting, then they just don't participate.

          This in turn opens the field for the most radical subsect which has the greatest relative representation.

          Or in other words - by having most people be apathetic - those with the least agenda to further, the results wind up being controlled by the most radical.

          Hardly a good situation I'd think.
          Well I prefer to think one step ahead on this. The undecided become apathetic because they become more informed. Radical partisans are the current winners anyways, so I doubt an overall lower voter turnout will produce much different results.

          What may have a chance of happening, however, is a return of those apathetic voters, who are now more informed, when they catch wind of a candidate they consider worthy of their vote. I personally hope it gets to the point where only 20% or so of the eligible population is voting because so many are choosing to avoid the illegitimate choices presented, such as between Kerry and Bush, Bush and Gore, McCain and Obama, and the future choices which are likely to be just as stupid. Then maybe one of those traditionally wasted vote candidates, the ones that actually represent what the disaffected voters believe in, will claim victory and break the two-flavors-of-evil mold that we currently have.

          Think of it this way--when you no longer think you have to choose between two bad choices, you no longer have any reason not to vote for some third-party candidate or one that you actually prefer versus voting to keep the other guy from getting elected.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

            Originally posted by Ghent12
            Well I prefer to think one step ahead on this. The undecided become apathetic because they become more informed. Radical partisans are the current winners anyways, so I doubt an overall lower voter turnout will produce much different results.
            While what you say may be possible, the study is saying that those who are not already partisan - when presented with 2 radically different versions of reality, one from each partisan side - simply stop participating in the process.

            The study also then says that those who are partisan simply cleave to 'their' version of reality.

            Clearly there can only be 1 version.

            Originally posted by Ghent12
            What may have a chance of happening, however, is a return of those apathetic voters, who are now more informed, when they catch wind of a candidate they consider worthy of their vote. I personally hope it gets to the point where only 20% or so of the eligible population is voting because so many are choosing to avoid the illegitimate choices presented, such as between Kerry and Bush, Bush and Gore, McCain and Obama, and the future choices which are likely to be just as stupid.
            I think if only 20% of the population votes, then some large but radical minority winds up controlling the electoral process.

            The Mormons, for example, muster about 6 million in the US or about 2% of the vote.

            If the LDS says to vote on 'X' candidate or 'Y' issue, do you think they'd all vote that way?

            Not saying being Mormon is good or bad, but pointing out a particularly unified and large group of minority voters.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

              Originally posted by c1ue View Post
              ....I think if only 20% of the population votes, then some large but radical minority winds up controlling the electoral process.
              this dynamic is clearly at work in a lot of states: HI for one, without a doubt - CA (edit: to a lesser extent, as the 'pubs still seem to have some say), along with most of the blue states

              Originally posted by c1ue View Post
              The Mormons, for example, muster about 6 million in the US or about 2% of the vote.

              If the LDS says to vote on 'X' candidate or 'Y' issue, do you think they'd all vote that way?
              not by what eye see in UT: http://www.sltrib.com/ the [COMMENTS] are where you see The Real Action, as my obs is the mormons by and large are a silent majority (and not much diff then the catholics, protestants in the east) and the leftwing that has 'infiltrated' SLC is anything but 'silent' - but when they push em hard enuf, the mormons will comment and they dont seem all that 'sheeplike' vs the kneejerk-reactionary left/lib/progressive crowd thats become a major force in UT, who can be absolutely counted on to pile-on sheeplike on every hot button issue (one in particular that anybody who follows whats happening in UT knows all too well) as they (the left) seem all to happy to rub the mormons noses in 'it' every chance they get - and at least the mormons are POLITE about political discourse - the left?
              generally/generalizing: they the rudest bunch of hoodlums of all - its hilarious to read em in the comments...
              (disclaimer: on social issues, i'm libertarian; financial: eagle)
              Last edited by lektrode; 03-13-11, 01:27 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

                Originally posted by c1ue View Post
                While what you say may be possible, the study is saying that those who are not already partisan - when presented with 2 radically different versions of reality, one from each partisan side - simply stop participating in the process.

                The study also then says that those who are partisan simply cleave to 'their' version of reality.

                Clearly there can only be 1 version.



                I think if only 20% of the population votes, then some large but radical minority winds up controlling the electoral process.

                The Mormons, for example, muster about 6 million in the US or about 2% of the vote.

                If the LDS says to vote on 'X' candidate or 'Y' issue, do you think they'd all vote that way?

                Not saying being Mormon is good or bad, but pointing out a particularly unified and large group of minority voters.
                I'd be willing to wager that their vote would be less monolithic than the black vote in the US (~93% Democrat).
                Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

                  Originally posted by lektrode
                  not by what eye see in UT: http://www.sltrib.com/ the [COMMENTS] are where you see The Real Action, as my obs is the mormons by and large are a silent majority (and not much diff then the catholics, protestants in the east) and the leftwing that has 'infiltrated' SLC is anything but 'silent' - but when they push em hard enuf, the mormons will comment and they dont seem all that 'sheeplike' vs the kneejerk-reactionary left/lib/progressive crowd thats become a major force in UT, who can be absolutely counted on to pile-on sheeplike on every hot button issue (one in particular that anybody who follows whats happening in UT knows all too well) as they (the left) seem all to happy to rub the mormons noses in 'it' every chance they get - and at least the mormons are POLITE about political discourse - the left?
                  generally/generalizing: they the rudest bunch of hoodlums of all - its hilarious to read em in the comments...
                  (disclaimer: on social issues, i'm libertarian; financial: eagle)
                  While Utah hasn't been a 'one party' state exactly, on the other hand I do not recall any LDS fiats to vote on specific issues.

                  In the absence of official guidance, it is difficult to say how they would react.

                  Note this was purely an example.

                  Originally posted by Master Shake
                  I'd be willing to wager that their vote would be less monolithic than the black vote in the US (~93% Democrat).
                  Indeed. And this illustrates my point.

                  The numbers of African-Americans who voted in 2008 was around 16 million - 12% or so of the overall vote. Were they to increase overall voter participation from 55% to 90%, this would add 10 million voters.

                  26 million voters out of the 141 million (131 million from 2008, plus additional 10 million extra turnout) raises the African American influence from 12% to over 18%.

                  Overall African American population percentage in US: 12.4%

                  Of course this is unlikely, but it illustrates how a cohesive minority could achieve much greater than normal proportional representation simply by having the rest of the population not vote.

                  You see something quite similar in corporate stockholder votes.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

                    Originally posted by Master Shake View Post
                    I'd be willing to wager that their vote would be less monolithic than the black vote in the US (~93% Democrat).
                    guess it depends upon precisely which neighborhood they reside, as noted in a recent nytimes article re detroit.

                    and - on this topic - i guess we're jumping into the abyss of which "polite company" seldom goes swimming in, eh?
                    (politix, money, religion) tho eye _have_ noted that this bunch isnt very shy....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: "Fair and Balanced" leads to voter apathy

                      Originally posted by c1ue View Post
                      While Utah hasn't been a 'one party' state exactly, on the other hand I do not recall any LDS fiats to vote on specific issues.

                      In the absence of official guidance, it is difficult to say how they would react.

                      Note this was purely an example.



                      Indeed. And this illustrates my point.

                      The numbers of African-Americans who voted in 2008 was around 16 million - 12% or so of the overall vote. Were they to increase overall voter participation from 55% to 90%, this would add 10 million voters.

                      26 million voters out of the 141 million (131 million from 2008, plus additional 10 million extra turnout) raises the African American influence from 12% to over 18%.

                      Overall African American population percentage in US: 12.4%

                      Of course this is unlikely, but it illustrates how a cohesive minority could achieve much greater than normal proportional representation simply by having the rest of the population not vote.

                      You see something quite similar in corporate stockholder votes.
                      thanks Mr c1ue -
                      not to brownnose or make you blush sir - but eye learn more from a few of your posts than i'd be able to get in a week's worth of other sources.

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