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Whose media are hostile? The spillover effect of interpersonal discussions on media bias perceptions

Laia Castro, David Nicolas Hopmann and Lilach Nir
From the journal Communications

Abstract

Since Eveland and Shah (2003) published their seminal study on the impact of social networks on media bias perceptions in the US, little has been researched about the interpersonal antecedents of hostile media perceptions. In this study we address this gap by investigating the role of safe, or like-minded, political discussions on individuals’ likelihood to perceive media as hostile. We use survey data from more than 5,000 individuals in Germany. Our findings reveal that like-minded discussions increase one’s likelihood to perceive media as hostile; yet, only among those more politically engaged and ideologically on the left. The significance and theoretical implications of the results are discussed in the concluding section.

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Appendix

Figure 2: Average marginal effects of safety of political discussions on hostile media bias perceptions, by levels of political sophistication.Note: Effect sizes on hostile media perceptions for each level of sophistication with 95 % CI.

Figure 2:

Average marginal effects of safety of political discussions on hostile media bias perceptions, by levels of political sophistication.

Note: Effect sizes on hostile media perceptions for each level of sophistication with 95 % CI.

Question wording and coding of variables

Hostile media bias perceptions

Many people in Germany are inclined to support a particular political party for a longer period of time even if they occasionally vote for another party. What about you? In general terms, are you inclined to support a particular political party? And if so, which one?

(If BILD is read at least once a week) If you think about the reports on political parties in BILD during the election campaign, which impression did you have? Were these reports more favorable to some parties than to others? If yes, to which parties? (up to 3 parties in the order mentioned)

(If outlet read/watched at least once a week) If you think about the reports in this newspaper on/coverage in these programs of the political parties during the election campaign, which impression did you have? Were these reports more favorable to some parties than to others? If so, to which parties?

Ideology

Do you see yourself as a rather left-wing or a rather right-wing person? Please use a scale from 1 to 11. If 1 is “left” and 11 is “right”, where do you see yourself?

Strength of party identification

(If inclined to support a particular party) How strongly or little are you inclined to support this party: very strongly, fairly strongly, moderately, fairly little, or very little? (re-coded 0=no party ID, 6=very strong party ID)

Political sophistication (additive index of knowledge and interest)

In the federal election, you have two votes: the first vote and the second vote. Which one of the two is decisive for the relative strengths of the parties in the Bundestag?

1–3 multiple choice with one-true option and DK. Correct answer 1 point)

Generally, how interested in politics are you? 5-point scale

News media attention

(If TV was watched on at least one day) When you were watching the news on television, how carefully did you watch the reports on the political parties and the election campaign – very carefully, carefully, not so carefully, or not carefully at all? 4-point inverted scale, reverse-coded

(If newspaper read at least one day) How carefully did you read reports on the parties and the election campaign – very carefully, carefully, not so carefully, or not carefully at all? 4-point scale, reverse-coded

Frequency of political discussions

On how many days last week did you talk about politics and the political parties with other people, such as members of your family, friends, or acquaintances? (0–7)

Network size

(If person discussed politics 1–7) What would you say, what was the number of persons with whom you talked about politics? 0=no discussions, 21=more than 20 persons

Discussion safety/danger:

Are you inclined to support a particular political party? And if so, which one?

On how many days last week did you talk to this person (first discussion partner/second discussion partner) about parties or the federal election? (0–7)

Which party do you think this person (first discussion partner/second discussion partner) will probably vote for in the federal election on 22 September, or do you think she/he will not vote at all?

Example of how hostile media perceptions (or HMP) is constructed

To illustrate the computation of hostile media bias perceptions (or HMP), two hypothetical individuals (individual x and individual y) will be used as examples. Individual x is an SPD-supporter, who reads Bild and watches ZDF, and individual y is a CDU/CSU supporter, who also reads Bild and watches ZDF. Both individual x and individual y perceive Bild and ZDF to lean towards CDU/CSU. Accordingly, we first assign a left=1 to individual x since she/he votes SPD and assign a right=1 to individual y since she/he votes CDU/CSU. Second, we compute an average perceived ideology of each individual’s media diet on a 3-point scale where 1=leftist, 2=neutral, 3=rightist. As both individual x and individual y perceive the media outlets they use as favoring CDU/CSU, each of these individuals’ perceived media ideology scores 3. Third and last, an HMP value of 1 is assigned to individual x, who voted for a leftist party (SPD) and perceived her media diet as favoring the opposing political camp (CDU/CSU or right), and an HMP value of –1 is assigned to individual y, since she/he voted for a rightist party and perceived her frequent media diet as close to her political camp (right).

Published Online: 2020-08-11

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