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The Conditional Effects of Media Tone on Immigration Attitudes

Presenter: Amber Boydstun

Mar 09, 2017
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM

Kerr Hall 386

Presenter: Amber Boydstun

Authors: Amber Boydstun, University of California, Davis - Dallas Card, Carnegie Mellon University - Noah Smith, University of Washington

Abstract: When a policy issue is covered in the media, the tone of the coverage (positive or negative) can affect citizens’ perceptions of the issue. Yet no prior research has examined whether the effect of media tone on public attitudes depends on other variables. We hypothesize that the effects of media tone on public opinion towards are stronger during periods of high media salience but weaker the more news coverage includes a diversity of frames appealing to different issue publics. We test these hypotheses in the case of immigration. We use manual coding linked with computational modeling to examine US media coverage of immigration, 1980–2012, tracking both tone (pro/anti/neutral) and emphasis frames (e.g., morality, economic). Using time series analysis, we test whether media tone co-varies with public opinion (measured using Stimson’s policy mood measure). We show that this covariance is indeed stronger when the issue is highly salient but weaker as the diversity of frames increases. Our study adds to the fields of political communication, public opinion, and immigration policy. 

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