PS 475 Media & PoliticsMark Peffley Department of Politics Princeton University
Post Broadcast Democracy How does changing media technology influence public opinion? How does shifting from “broadcast democracy” in 70s & 80s to Cable TV & Internet influence public opinion and voting behavior?
By affecting who learns, the media environment also influences who votes.And by affecting who votes, the media environment also affects election outcomes
100 Share 1970: 75 90 2004: 38 80 Share 49% decline 70 60 50 Rating 1980: 38 2005: 18 40 30 Rating 53 % decline 20 10 0 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005•In explaining this decline, pundits and academics often mention declining interest, increasing cynicism,greater apathy—i.e., changes in peoples’ attitudes.•What about changes in the media environment?
Road-blocking strategies by the major networks, captive audiences By-product learning, especially of people who prefer entertainment but are willing to watch the news before entertainment shows broadcast after the news Floating voters, Switchers whose first choice would not be to watch the news, are most responsive to new choices when cable and Internet are introduced.
Individuals with low education benefit most from greater penetration of broadcast TV DIRECT EFFECT TOTAL EFFECT Note: Cross-sectional correlation based on survey data and county level # of TV stations, from 1952-1968.
End of captive audience & byproduct learning Switchers, who prefer entertainment, should move to entertainment when they have a choice Now, content preferences increasingly determine news exposure and political knowledge Prediction: Increasing political inequality
With cable penetration from 20% to over 60%, network news ratings drop by more than a third
Cableeffect Internet penetration begins Network news audiences decline in households with cable access, esp. in 1980s, then again in 1990s with Internet access
Some people drop out of the electorate: Undecided Entertainment fans are voting less than before voters? Entertainment fans are less partisan Overall (total) news consumption by public as a whole doesn’t decline (in the high choice era), since the smaller group of political junkies can consume political news 24/7. The composition of the electorate changes: Polarization With Independents and weak partisans who prefer entertainment to news becoming less informed and less likely to vote, and strong partisans becoming more informed and more likely to vote, the composition of remaining voters becomes more partisan, polarized.
Two measures of Relative Entertainment Preference (REP) Ranking news vs other genres (Science fiction like X-files, Rating news vs other genres
Prefernews Prefer entert. Cable access increases news exposure for some, but lowers it for others (i.e., those who prefer entertainment).
News junkies inchoice envir arevery Most peopleknowledgeable. are here Among people who prefer entertainment, higher choice lowers political knowledge.
In a high-choice environment, people’s REP become a better predictor of political learning than their education level. In a high-choice environment, news junkies are very knowledgeable, but those who prefer entertainment are very low in political knowledge . Knowledge gain may be the same, overall, but the knowledge gap increases in a high choice media environment
+ effect - effectSee the differences between hi & lo choice above & below the meanof REP