Although there is growing evidence that partisans believe they are further apart than they actually are, the causes and consequences of this misperception are not always clear. Informed by the literature on news framing and self-categorization theory, we hypothesize that the media's focus on partisan conflict increases partisans' perceptions of public polarization, which fuels partisan attitude polarization on disputed issues in news coverage. Study 1 supports this contention in the political domain. By retesting the hypotheses in a gender context, Study 2 further demonstrates that the impact of conflict news framing on attitude polarization is not simply due to preexisting political polarization. The implications of the present study are discussed in light of its generalizability to varying political systems.
- attitude polarization and self-categorization theory
- conflict frames
- identity salience
- misperceptions of polarization