| Circling the Wagons:
Soft News and Isolationism in American Public Opinion
study investigates the differences in coverage of foreign policy by
the soft and hard news media, and the implications of such differences
for public attitudes regarding the appropriate U.S. role in the world.
I find that, relative to traditional news outlets, the soft news media
place greater emphasis on dramatic, human-interest themes and episodic
frames and less emphasis on knowledgeable information sources or thematic
frames, while also having a greater propensity to emphasize the potential
for bad outcomes. I then develop a conceptual framework in order to
determine the implications of these differences. I argue that the
style of coverage of soft news outlets tends to induce suspicion and
distrust of a proactive or internationalist approach to U.S. foreign
policy, particularly among the least politically attentive segments
of the public. I test this and several related hypotheses through
multiple statistical investigations into the effects of soft news
coverage on attitudes toward isolationism in general, and U.S. policy
regarding the Bosnian Civil War in particular. I find that among the
least politically attentive members of the public, but not their more-attentive
counterparts, soft news exposurebut not exposure to traditional news
sourcesis indeed associated with greater isolationism in general,
and opposition to a proactive U.S. policy toward Bosnia in particular.
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