Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Does TV turn people off politics?

13.05.2003


Television news programmes may be contributing to current political apathy, according to a new report funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. An in-depth study of more than 5600 TV news reports in both Britain and the US between September 2001 and February 2002 reveals that the news media may be encouraging a disengaged citizenry by representing the public as generally passive and apolitical.

"This study was prompted by growing concern about the poor and declining voter turnout in both Britain and the United States," explains Professor Justin Lewis of Cardiff University. "Although we have recently seen people taking part in huge protests – whether for the countryside or against the war – this engagement doesn’t seem to connect to an interest in representative politics."

The report asks what model of citizenship the news media provides. Crucially, do the news media encourage or discourage citizens to engage with politics and public life?"



Researchers analysed news reports for any reference to public opinion, whether through polls, ’vox pops’, demonstrations, or simply off the cuff remarks made about what people think about the world. Some of the findings, suggests Professor Lewis, are surprising.

  • Many assume that the main form of public representation in the media is the opinion poll. In fact, less than 2 per cent of references to public opinion on British television involve polls or surveys of any kind.
  • The most common references to public opinion (44 per cent) are inferences – claims made (generally by reporters) without any supporting evidence.
  • Similarly ’vox pops’, the second most common category (39 per cent) often appear to provide an impression about public opinion, but are rarely based on survey data.
  • Demonstrations, or other examples of citizen activism are rarely used as a source of public opinion (less than 3 per cent).
  • Public opinion in Europe is almost completely ignored, especially in British media.

"Polls, for all their flaws, are the most systematic form of evidence we have about what people think about the world – yet they’re used surprisingly rarely in television news," Professor Lewis points out. "While television often refers to public opinion, these results suggest that we rarely hear any evidence for the claims being made."

Similarly striking is the extent to which citizens are represented as non-ideological. In the sample, 95 per cent of references in Britain (90 per cent in the US) expressed no clear political leaning at all – even though the most common subjects of references to public opinion such as health, crime and terrorism, are all matters of political debate. Overall, only around 5 per cent of references to public opinion on British news involve citizens making suggestions about what should be done in the world.

The report argues this risks conveying an impression of a citizenry either unable or unwilling to put forward a political view. Instead, the most common type of citizen representation is a member of the public talking about their experiences, impressions or fears. According to Lewis, "On television, citizens may raise problems, but it’s left to politicians or experts to offer solutions."

The research team acknowledge that many in the news media and politics are concerned about public apathy in politics and that there is now a willingness among the media to broadcast citizens playing a more active role in political debate. "This might involve some radical departures from time-honoured conventions, but it might also be a prerequisite for engaging a population increasingly disenchanted with political parties," Professor Lewis concludes.


For further information:
Contact Professor Justin Lewis on 02920 876341 or 02920 651905, e-mail: lewisj2@cf.ac.uk
Or Lesley Lilley or Anna Hinds at ESRC, on 01793 413119/413122

Anna Hinds | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk/

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>