Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

News media bias can net mistakes at the ballot box

27.06.2008
The media slant political news to the left or right to increase ratings and profits, spinning up an information vacuum that can lead to mistakes at the ballot box, a new study by three University of Illinois economists says.

Media bias has become increasingly profitable given a polarized electorate in which conservatives and liberals want news coverage that tilts toward their political leanings, according to the study by Dan Bernhardt, Stefan Krasa and Mattias Polborn.

“You listen to news not just to get informed, but to be entertained,” Krasa said. “And you’re more entertained if they tell you you’re right than if they tell you you’re wrong.”

But even though voters typically take the spin into account rather than following blindly and that the media only slant news rather than falsifying it, selective reporting can still factor into mistakes at the polls, according to findings that will appear in the Journal of Public Economics.

Voters get an incomplete picture as conservative media outlets favor Republicans and blast Democrats, while liberal outlets do just the opposite, according to the study, “Partisan Polarization and the Electoral Effects of Media Bias.”

“Biased media suppresses information that is unfavorable to ‘their’ candidate, and even smart voters cannot completely recover the truth from their reports,” Polborn said.

The study says media bias can also trip up voters who try to account for the slant some outlets put on the news.

For instance, an independent voter who hears only minor negative news about a Democrat through a conservative outlet could rightly infer that the Democrat has no glaring faults or they would have been trumpeted. But the Republican’s quality remains in question because the voter rationally expects any negative news would be stifled.

Bernhardt and Krasa say the earnings-driven bias that tailors news to give conservatives or liberals what they want to hear could weigh on this fall’s presidential race. Conservative media outlets will tout Republican John McCain’s strengths and downplay or ignore weaknesses, while Democrat Barack Obama will get similar kid-glove treatment from left-leaning media, the economics professors say.

“Selective reporting by a liberal or conservative outlet can cause voters to make mistakes because they don’t hear the whole story,” Bernhardt said. “If collectively enough of them make mistakes it can switch the winner of the election.”

Media bias could play an even bigger role in this year’s presidential race because Obama is still a relative unknown whose positions and past will be selectively reported as they surface during the campaign, Bernhardt said.

“There could be too little crossover voting by moderate Republicans because if Obama turns out to be good it won’t be reported by the media they use,” Bernhardt said. “If it turns out he’s bad, there could be too little crossover voting by moderate liberals.”

Krasa says the impact of slanted reporting would only be felt in swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania where moderate voters can sway an election.

“Media bias would not have a perceptible impact in non-swing states,” Krasa said. “If a Democratic vote for McCain makes a difference in a blue state, like Illinois, he’s going to win nearly every other state anyway, so it’s irrelevant.”

Opinion polls illustrate the ideological ties that media outlets such as alleged right-leaning Fox News or perceived liberally bent CNN use to expand their audience and, in turn, advertising revenues, according to the study.

A poll during the 2004 presidential campaign showed that among voters who get most election news from Fox, 70 percent supported President Bush, compared with 21 percent for Democratic rival John Kerry. The results were just the opposite among CNN viewers – 26 percent for Bush and 67 percent for Kerry.

The media’s spin also influences views on seemingly factual matters, according to the study, citing a 2004 poll that showed 84 percent of Bush supporters thought Saddam Hussein had strong links to al Qaeda, compared with 37 percent of Kerry backers.

Krasa says averting bias-driven mistakes at the polls would require voters to seek out both sides, something most are unwilling to do because they don’t think their vote will be pivotal.

“The problem is to avoid making mistakes you’re asking voters to work harder, and it’s not necessarily in their self-interest to do that,” Bernhardt said. “So there’s this paradox. Becoming better informed could potentially help everybody else because we would vote better and wouldn’t make mistakes. But people don’t internalize the consequences for everybody else, they only internalize their own. So they under invest in information. Most do.”

Jan Dennis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>