Matthew A. Baum

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Sex, Lies, and War: How Soft News Brings Foreign Policy to the Inattentive Public

This study argues that, due to selective political coverage by the entertainment-oriented, soft news media, many otherwise politically inattentive individuals are exposed to information about high-profile political issues, most prominently foreign policy crises, as an incidental byproduct of seeking entertainment. I conduct a series of statistical investigations examining the relationship between individual media consumption and attentiveness to a series of recent high-profile foreign policy crisis issues. For purposes of comparison, I also investigate several non-foreign crisis issues, some of which possess characteristics appealing to soft news programs, and others of which lack such characteristics. I find that information about foreign crises, and other issues possessing similar characteristics, presented in a soft news context, has indeed attracted the attention of politically uninvolved Americans. The net effect is a reduced disparity in attentiveness to select high profile political issues across different segments of the public.

Replication datasets for this article are available for download as zipped Excel files here.

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