Matthew A. Baum

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Shot by the Messenger:  An Experimental Examination of the Effects of Party Cues on Public Opinion Regarding National Security and War

     

Research has shown that messages of intra-party harmony tend to be ignored by the news media, while internal disputes, especially within the governing party, generally receive prominent coverage. We examine how messages of party conflict and cooperation affect public opinion regarding national security, as well as whether and how the reputations of media outlets matter. We develop a typology of partisan messages in the news, determining their likely effects based on the characteristics of the speaker, listener, news outlet, and message content. We hypothesize that criticism of the president by his fellow partisan elites should be exceptionally damaging (especially on a “conservative” media outlet), while opposition party praise of the president should be the most helpful (especially on a “liberal” outlet). We test our hypotheses through an experiment and a national survey on attitudes regarding the Iraq War. The results show that credible communication (i.e., “costly” rhetoric harmful to a party) is more influential than “cheap talk” in moving public opinion. Ironically, news media outlets perceived as ideologically “hostile” can actually enhance the credibility of certain messages relative to “friendly” news sources.

 

 

You can download this paper, in pdf format, here.

(Note: This is an electronic version of an article published in Political Behavior. Complete citation information for the final version of the paper, as published in the print edition of Political Behavior , is available on the Springer online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at http://www.springerlink.com/content/104963)

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