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Chapter 5: Hearing the Other Side and Standing Firm Arceneaux and Johnson. Erinn Lauterbach Feb. 28, 2014. Main point: What role could partisan news play in hardening the attitudes of viewers against opposing arguments? Example: Birthers in 2008

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Chapter 5 hearing the other side and standing firm arceneaux and johnson

Chapter 5: Hearing the Other Side and Standing FirmArceneaux and Johnson


Feb. 28, 2014

  • Main point: What role could partisan news play in hardening the attitudes of viewers against opposing arguments?

    • Example: Birthers in 2008

  • These shows both bolster pre-existing attitudes and help hone viewer defenses to arguments from the other side.

  • Partisan show hosts (O’Reilly & Olbermann)

    • Promote their own views

    • Tear down others with whom they disagree

  • These kinds of communications can wall off like-minded viewers from hearing the other side.

  • One theory of political communication is that if people are exposed to opposing arguments (both proattitudinal and counterattitudinal) they will have more moderate views and reasonable opinions.

    • Authors use a hypothetical counterfactual

  • Questions: will hearing the other side moderate views (increase openness) or will exposure to countervailing views harden partisans against those arguments?

  • Again the A & J are borrowing from the psychology literature exposed to opposing arguments (both

    • Exposure to proattitudinal information increases peoples political efficacy and bolsters their initial opinions

      • Primes group identity

    • If counterattitudinal information signals an out-group threat it would motivate people to defend their groups position

      • This desire for in-group cohesion can mediate even reasonable counter arguments

      • Examples? Climate change?

  • Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) exposed to opposing arguments (both (Petty and Cacioppo)

    • Helps the authors incorporate how the audience might differ in their receptivity to pro and counterattitudinal arguments.

    • “some individuals have a strong need to intellectually process, or elaborate, arguments while others are less inclined to do so”

      • Need for cognition

  • Individuals high in need for cognition are better at and enjoy dissecting arguments as well as generating their own counter arguments.

  • People who have exposed to opposing arguments (both weak attitudes and high need for cognition tend to moderate their opinions when exposed to both side.

  • People with strong attitudes and high need for cognition tend to counterargue when exposed to counterattitudes.

    • Rehearse counterarguments

    • Distrust the source

    • Resist persuasion

Experiments exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • Selective Exposure Experiments (SEEs) 09 & 11

    • Randomly assigned to 3 groups:

      • Proattitudinal show

      • Counterattitudinal show

      • Entertainment show (later to became channel changing group)

    • Focus on tax policy (Warren Buffet)

    • Asked to watch the news selection and rate the counterattitudinal persuasiveness on a 9 point scale

    • ELM measure was given in a pre-test

Results exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • If a respondent claims the counterattitudinal argument was not persuasive (weak) then there is evidence that watching partisan news hardens people’s opinions making them less open to opposing viewpoints.

    • This is what they found. When compared to the control group, those in the counterattitudinal group rated the given argument as weak.

ELM? exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • Low need for cognition participants:

    • In both pro and counterattitudinal groups did not evaluate arguments differently from the control group.

  • High need for cognition participants:

    • The partisan arguments caused participants to be more resistant to opposing arguments.

Entertainment folks
Entertainment Folks? exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • News seekers have a desire to maintain their opinions and should be capable of resisting counterattitudinal arguments.

  • Entertainment seekers however may benefit from exposure to both pro and counterattitudinal news.

    • Have less defense against counter arguments.

  • ELM?

    • May lack the desire to connect arguments made in the news to any pre-existing opinions.

Experiment exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • Fall 2011 Participant Preference Experiment (PPE)

    • Shorter version of the fall 2011 SEE

  • Before being randomly assigned to a group, participants were asked what they preferred to watch.

  • ELM was given in the post-test

Results exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • Partisan news shows have a larger affect on entertainment seekers

    • Specifically, proattitudinal group entertainment seekers substantially increase their resistance to counter arguments.

  • ELM:

    • Both low and high need for cognition entertainment seekers are more likely to resist opposing arguments after watching proattitudinal news.

    • It does little to harden attitudes further though

  • Takeaway: exposed to opposing arguments (both

    • Partisan news has the potential to have massive effects, but these are likely unrealized because the most susceptible tune out opinionated cable news programs.

Chapter 6 the salience and framing of issues

Chapter 6: The Salience and Framing of Issues exposed to opposing arguments (both

  • Agenda Setting: exposed to opposing arguments (both

    • By reporting on some issues at the expense of others, news media influences what issues the mass public sees as most important

    • Salience

  • Primes:

    • News media can construct shared perceptions about a collective experience and thus influence peoples political judgments

    • Helps people decide what information to rely on when constructing attitudes

  • Frames:

    • How a problem is defined can affect what people think about an issue


  • Question: Does the rise of partisan media alter agenda setting?

  • Possible theories:

    • Partisan media may focus on different things.

    • Stroud (2001) looked at the 2004 Presidential election. He found that the agenda on each side was similar, but the way they framed the issues was different.

  • Implications: audiences of one news outlet will have a different conversation from that of the audience of other news outlets.

  • Viewer watching a counterattitudinal show may accept the agenda, but not the partisan definition given with the issue.

    • A & J find that both pro- and counterattitudinal shows can shape perceptions of issue salience.

  • O’Reilly devoted much of his time to talking about the budget and economy

  • Olbermann did not discuss the economy at all

    • Olbermann viewers were 14% less likely than O’Reilly to mention the economy as the most important problem.

    • Olbermann successfully shifted the focus of his viewers away from the economy.

Experiment budget and economy

  • Winter 2011 SEE

    • Focus on the ACA/Obamacare

    • Posttest includes and overall evaluation of the president

    • The liberal and conservative shows presented the ACA in completely different ways

Findings budget and economy

  • Control Group

    • There was basically no relationship between health care and their performance evaluation of the president

  • Counterattitudinal Group

    • Participants were more likely to bring health-care specific and evaluations of Obama in line with each other

  • Partisan (especially counterattitudinal) news appear to prime the issues relevant to their evaluations of the president. However, counterattitudinal shows magnify partisanship in issue-specific presidential evaluations.

  • Agenda Setting: budget and economy

    • Most likely to happen among entertainment seeking groups assigned to proattitudinal shows.

    • News seekers in the counterattitudinal group appear to resist agenda setting (they were 10 percentage points less likely to mention the environment as a problem)

  • Issue Framing

    • Partisan media not only wants to set the agenda but also to affect how viewers define the issue.

  • Priming

    • Because counterattitudinal shows attack people’s core predispositions and partisan identities, a defensive priming effect may be more robus than simple agenda-setting effects are.

Experiment budget and economy

  • Fall 2011 PPE

    • Participants were presented with six problem definitions of federal tax policy and asked to rank how important each was.

      • Definitions taken from the news shows, 3 liberal & 3 conservative

    • Participants physically drag each definition to the spot where they thought it belonged.

Findings: budget and economy

  • News Seekers

    • Were highly likely to choose attitude-consistent problem definitions without the aid of partisan news

    • Definitions were unaffected by pro or counterattitudinal shows.

  • Entertainment Seekers

    • Proattitudinal shows appeared to facilitate an attitude-consistent problem definition (only slighly)

    • Counterattitudinal shows lowered the probability that they chose an attitude-consistent definition as their first choice.

      • These shows may successfully alter problem defintions