Term of Award

Summer 2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Ted Brimeyer

Committee Member 1

F. Erik Brooks

Committee Member 2

Eric Silva

Abstract

As the televised news media market becomes increasingly diversified, the evidence available suggests that news media audiences are more fragmented than ever, audiences trust the media less and less, and that news consumers tend to seek outlets that they believe share their political attitudes and worldview (Knobloch-Westerwick & Meng, 2009, Tsfati & Capella 2003, Niven 2002, Stalder, 2009, Pew Center, 2009). Researchers Vallone, Ross, and Lepper (1985) were some of the first to describe empirically an observation they call the “hostile media phenomenon.” This phenomenon draws from social judgment theory and assumes that “individuals evaluate the legitimacy of an object from a personally determined latitude of acceptance” (Vallone, Ross and Lepper, 1985). Since the classic study, several researchers have tested further implications of the hostile media phenomenon. Among those researchers, a number of them have found that Republicans and political conservatives usually hold stronger hostile media perceptions than Democrats or the politically liberal (Eveland & Shah, 2003; Lee 2005; Mutz & Martin, 2001; Stalder, 2009; Morris, 2007). This paper reviews the current literature on media trust, media bias, and the hostile media phenomenon, and presents a new method for studying the effects of these phenomena. The study explores the effects political attitudes have on source selection and perceptions of media bias, and poses the research question: What holds more weight when evaluating news messages: the message (content) or the messenger (source)?

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