The polarizing effect of news framing: Comparing the mediating roles of motivated reasoning, self-stereotyping, and intergroup animus

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Abstract

Abstract Existing research on conflict framing in the news-media has focused disproportionately on political-party membership, where prior polarization between party elites implies strong pre-existing differences of opinion. To determine whether conflict framing can elicit polarization in the context of other important social identities, we compare the polarizing effects of conflict framing along partisan versus gender lines. In two experimental studies using different samples - i.e., college students (Study 1) and adult U.S. citizens (Study 2) - we found that framing news in terms of gender conflict polarized participants along gender lines. Moreover, polarization emerged primarily via increased self-stereotyping rather than gender-based motivated reasoning or increased gender-based animus. Importantly, this polarizing effect of gender-based conflict framing was not smaller than that of partisan conflict framing. The implications of our findings are discussed in light of work on media framing, social identity, and the formation of public opinion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-711
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Communication
Volume68
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

Keywords

  • Attitude Polarization
  • Conflict Frames
  • Intergroup Animus
  • Motivated Reasoning
  • Self-stereotyping
  • Social Identity

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