How the Fire Starts
THE SOURCE: “All the News You Want to Hear: The Impact of Partisan News Exposure on Political Participation” by Susanna Dilliplane, in Public Opinion Quarterly , Summer 2011.
The charged rhetoric of conservative Bill O’Reilly and liberal Rachel Maddow have won their television news shows sizable audiences. Do their fighting words actually inspire fans to put down their remotes and become politically active? According to Susanna Dilliplane, a PhD candidate in communications at the University of Pennsylvania, the answer is yes. The wrinkle is that it matters a great deal what else the viewers watch.
Dilliplane studied the television news viewing habits of more than 10,000 Americans who identified as Republican or Democratic during the 2008 presidential election campaign. They all watched shows that reflected their views with about the same frequency. But when they switched to other offerings, Republicans were more likely to view programs headlined by partisans of the opposing stripe, while Democrats were more likely to tune in to neutral shows, such as PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.
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