News That Matters: Television and American Opinion

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We are particularly grateful to Behr for allowing us to use a portion of his dissertation research. At Michigan, Jon Krosnick was a tireless analyst and kibitzer whose relentless questioning strengthened the work and, in time, our friendship. Our experiments necessitated the use of sophisticated audiovisual facilities and equipment.

Lawrence Grippo, then a Yale undergraduate, skillfully created our newscasts, somehow kept track of our overflowing collection of videotapes, and ably assisted in the running of experiments.

Americans: Much Misinformation, Bias, Inaccuracy in News

We would also like to thank the hundreds of people in New Haven and Ann Arbor who saw fit to participate in our studies. Without their cooperation, this book could not have been written.

As chair of the department of political science at Yale, David Mayhew helped us find necessary resources. We are also grateful to Nancy Brennan at the Center for Political Studies at Michigan and Estelle Krieger at the department of political science at Stony Brook for preparing the manuscript—again and again, with great cheer and competence. Over the years, our research was funded by grants from the political science program at the National Science Foundation Grants SES , , and We thank program directors Gerald Wright and Frank Scioli for ably shepherding our proposals through the Foundation.

Additional support came from the National Institutes of Health in the form of a postdoctoral fellowship to Iyengar and the Block Fund of Yale University.

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Most of the national survey data we report were made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Neither CPS nor the Consortium bears any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations we offer here. Nor does anybody else. In the spirit of true collaboration, we have only each other to blame. Last, but hardly least, we wish to express our gratitude to our spouses and our children. Were it not for Ellen and Nikhil, and Janet and Benjamin, we would no doubt have completed this project sooner, but would have been unimaginably poorer for it.

On a typical weekday evening, some fifty million Americans gather around their television sets, tuned into the national newscasts of the three major networks. By a wide margin, they believe that television—not magazines, not radio, not newspapers—provides the most intelligent, complete, and impartial coverage of public affairs, and goes furthest in clarifying the candidacies and issues at stake in national elections Bower We Americans trust television news; we see it as authoritative perhaps in part because we see it ; we have welcomed Huntley, Cronkite, Brokaw, and the others into our living rooms gladly.

Because of its wide reach and high credibility, television news obviously possesses the potential to shape American public opinion profoundly.

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Whether television news realizes this potential, however, is the subject of considerable and occasionally acrimonious debate. According to their analysis, network news failed even to inform voters regarding the choices they confronted. Patterson and McClure put it this way: Since the nightly news is too brief to treat fully the complexity of modern politics, too visual to present effectively most events, and too entertainment-minded to tell viewers much worth knowing, most network newscasts are neither very educational nor very powerful communicators , We subscribe to much of this indictment.

Television news is brief; it does drastically simplify the complexity of modern politics; it is undeniably visual; and it does borrow unabashedly from the world of entertainment television. We know, moreover, that viewers typically pay rather casual and intermittent attention to the parade of stories that make up the news each night Kinder and Sears , — Our argument begins with the observation that Americans develop opinions toward an astonishing variety of issues that lie far outside their own experience.

To be sure, they are preoccupied first and foremost with the immediate concerns of private life: with earning a living, supporting a family, making and keeping friends. But at the same time, they also manage to decide whether huge federal deficits threaten the economy and whether fighting in Latin America threatens national security.

They reach such judgments without benefit of direct experience: without undertaking their own economic analysis, without traveling behind the lines in Nicaragua. Because they take part in the grand events of politics so rarely, ordinary Americans must depend upon information and analysis provided by others—in modern times, upon information and analysis provided by mass media. This dependence gives the media an enormous capacity to shape public thinking.

Cohen has put this point well, and although he was writing with newspapers in mind, his argument applies with at least equal force to television news:. The press is significantly more than a purveyor of information and opinion. It may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.

And it follows from this that the world looks different to different people, depending not only on their personal interests, but also on the map that is drawn for them by the writers, editors, and publishers of the papers they read. Perhaps the notion of a map is too confining, for it does not suggest the full range of the political phenomena that are conveyed by the press.

The editor may believe he is only printing the things that people want to read, but he is thereby putting a claim on their attention, powerfully determining what they will be thinking about, and talking about, until the next wave laps their shore , Although research on agenda-setting has proliferated over the last decade, so far, unfortunately, the results add up to rather little.

Agenda-setting may be an apt metaphor, but it is no theory.

The lack of a theory of media effects has significantly impeded our understanding of how democracy works. The health and vitality of any democratic government depend in part on the wisdom of ordinary citizens. And indeed, commentaries on the current state of the American polity, in scholarly journals and on the editorial page, are laced with normative claims that the public is or is not rational, that the American citizen is shrewd or foolish.

Such claims typically pay no attention whatsoever to the dissemination of political information throughout society, to the no-doubt intricate relationship that has grown up between the institutions of mass communication, on the one hand, and the political wisdom of ordinary citizens, on the other. Lippmann was not exaggerating the political significance of this relationship when he wrote that citizens who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda.

The quack, the charlatan, the jingo, and the terrorist can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information , 54— If we are to understand and assess how well the American political system works, surely we need a theory of how information about public affairs percolates through American society.

We begin to develop such a theory here, as part of our effort to understand the ways in which television news shapes the political thinking of ordinary Americans. We test and refine our understanding mainly—though not exclusively—with experiments, a powerful method of investigation that media researchers have largely ignored. Our fourteen experiments introduce systematic and unobtrusive alterations into the television news broadcasts that ordinary citizens watch.

As a consequence, citizens assigned to different experimental conditions are furnished with slightly different glimpses of the political world—and as we will see, such differences matter greatly.

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Because our procedures are unusual, we explain them fully in chapter 2. There we define exactly what we mean by an experiment, argue that experimentation possesses distinctive strengths for the study of television news, and then describe the particular experimental designs we deployed in our research. Chapter 3 presents results from a series of experiments on agenda-setting, supplemented at key junctures with complementary evidence drawn from our analysis of national surveys. Rising prices, unemployment, energy shortages, arms control—all these and more become high priority political issues for the public only if they first become high priority news items for the networks.

In chapter 4 we examine characteristics of coverage that might accentuate the agenda-setting effect. We compare stories that lead off the evening news with those that appear later in the broadcast, on the hypothesis that lead stories might be more influential merely because of their position. They are. We also assess whether the dramatic personal vignettes that the networks commonly use to illustrate national problems, which are surely riveting, are also particularly influential. They are not. Racial discrimination, job loss, and the threatened collapse of the social security system among others are national problems and, for some Americans, overwhelming personal ones as well.

Do such direct experiences override the vicarious experiences provided by television news?

They do not. In chapter 6 we investigate several characteristics of viewers that might make them more or less vulnerable to agenda-setting. We compare the reactions of the well-educated and the poorly-educated, partisans and independents, the politically involved and the politically withdrawn, thereby hoping to identify more precisely just who is affected by agenda-setting.

Chapters 7 through 11 take up what we call priming, a manifestation of television power that is more insidious and perhaps more consequential than agenda-setting. Priming presumes that when evaluating complex political objects—the performance of an incumbent president, or the promises of a presidential contender—citizens do not take into account all that they know.

News That Matters by Shanto Iyengar and Donald R. Kinder - Read Online

They cannot, even if they were motivated to do so. What they do consider is what comes to mind, those bits and pieces of political memory that are accessible. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.

Why CNN’s Ratings Are Down - The News & Why It Matters - Ep 333

More related to public opinion. See more. How Partisan Media Polarize America. Matthew Levendusky. Forty years ago, viewers who wanted to watch the news could only choose from among the major broadcast networks, all of which presented the same news without any particular point of view. Today we have a much broader array of choices, including cable channels offering a partisan take. With partisan programs gaining in popularity, some argue that they are polarizing American politics, while others counter that only a tiny portion of the population watches such programs and that their viewers tend to already hold similar beliefs.

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The book News That Matters: Television and American Opinion, Updated Edition, Shanto Iyengar and Donald R. Kinder is published by University of Chicago. News That Matters: Television and American Opinion, Updat and millions of other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Almost twenty-five years ago, Shanto Iyengar and Donald R. Kinder first documented a series of sophisticated and innovative experiments that unobtrusively.

Drawing on experiments and survey data, he shows that Americans who watch partisan programming do become more certain of their beliefs and less willing to weigh the merits of opposing views or to compromise. And while only a small segment of the American population watches partisan media programs, those who do tend to be more politically engaged, and their effects on national politics are therefore far-reaching.

In a time when politics seem doomed to partisan discord, How Partisan Media Polarize America offers a much-needed clarification of the role partisan media might play. Media Polls in American Politics. Thomas E. Public opinion pools have become staples of contemporary political reporting, and most national news organizations have sophisticated in-house polling operations.

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The increased number and quality of polls conducted and reported by the press give the public a chance to help see the agendas of campaigns and define the meaning of elections. With Malice Toward All?