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Understanding How Individual Differences and Context Shape Media Effects

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Principal Investigator(s):

Kevin Arceneaux
Temple University
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Martin Johnson
Louisiana State University
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Sample size:
Field period: 03/17/2014-01/06/2015



1. Can mainstream news affect partisan polarization?

2. How do the motivations of audience members and their programming choices moderate the influence of mainstream and partisan news?

3. Do perceptions of elite polarization moderate the influence of news (mainstream and partisan)?

Experimental Manipulations:

1) Polarization Prime (less polarized/more polarized/no prime)

2) News exposure: mainstream/likeminded partisan/oppositional partisan/entertainment (control)

Key Dependent Variables:

Below is a list of statements about capital punishment and the application of the death penalty in the U.S. You may find that you agree with some and disagree with others. We would like to know how much you agree or disagree with each statement.

1. I support the death penalty for those who commit the most heinous crimes.

2. We should halt using the death penalty until we can ensure that it is administered in a way that causes the least pain and suffering.

Summary of Findings:

1. We find that mainstream news can indeed polarize political attitudes, particularly among individuals that would prefer partisan news.

2. We do not find reliable evidence that our polarization prime moderate the effects of news exposure.


"How Mainstream News Media Can Polarize America, Too." Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association conference (2015) and the West Coast Experiments Conference (2015).


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