By Mehnoosh H.
Recent studies have shown that certain news outlets have reported bias news, influencing the viewers. Two of the most popular news stations, Fox News and CNN have been described as biased news networks. It is important to understand the effects of the media on one’s beliefs, voting habits, and political position. In this paper, I will address Fox News Channel’s effects on the viewers.
In Stefano DellaVigna and Ethan Kaplan’s article “The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting,” DellaVigna and Kaplan address the grave consequences of media networks reporting biased news. If news stations easily manipulate audiences, the media markets could potentially impact the political outcomes. With the help of two different audience measures from Scarborough Research data, DellaVigna and Kaplan were able to compute the impact of Fox News viewership. One audience estimate suggested that Fox News convince between 3 and 8 percent of its non-Republican audience members to vote republican. (DellaVigna and Kaplan Pg. 1189).
Two political Scientists, Berelson and Gaudet had assessed an experiment to test whether or not Fox News had an effect on its audience members. The scientists had used a survey conducted by scientists Kull, Ramsay, and Lewis in 2003. The survey had shown that 33% of Fox News Watchers incorrectly believed that the weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq by October 2003.
One of the explanations for the finding that Fox News convinced a substantial number of its audience members to vote Republican states that audience members are originally uncertain about the bias of Fox News. Thus, watching this network has an effect on their beliefs and voting habits (DellaVigna and Kaplan Pg. 1226).
DellaVigna and Kaplan also address the statistic that towns with Fox News have a 0.4-0.7% higher Republican vote share in the 2000 presidential elections, compared to the 1996 elections (DellaVigna and Kaplan Pg. 1228)
But the issue with biased opinions does not come just come from the networks that air these stories. Many people associate certain news networks as being too conservative or too liberal. These labels affect the viewers’ opinions and political beliefs. They do not listen to the story being reported but focus on who is reporting the story.
In Joel Turner’s “The Messenger Overwhelming the Message: Ideological Cues and Perceptions of Bias in Television News,” Turner addresses the issue that Fox News affects viewers in a negative way by influencing how the audience processes television. Because audience members typically associate Fox News with a conservatively biased opinion, Turner hypothesized that audiences will perceive stories as ideologically biased based on the network that airs the story. He argued that by attaching a label (the news station) to a story, many viewers would perceive the news differently. This thus affects how the viewer could potentially vote and act in the political sphere. Turner conducted an experiment to test whether or not participants were easily manipulated by choosing 5 stories from Fox News Channel and CNN. He then created replications of the stories where the content of the stories remained the same, but he changed the name of the News Station reporting the story. His tests supported his hypothesis and found that one’s perception of a news station heavily effects their perception of the news that is being reported.
It is important that one understands the effects of a news network reporting biased news. Why is it so bad? Well if you’re hearing news from a biased point of view, you’re not really hearing what you think you’re hearing. You may think that the news is factual and based on what really happened. But biased news is a misconception of what really happened. We’ve all heard the famous saying, “There’s three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.” If a news station is altering the news based on their own personal opinion, then we aren’t hearing the truth like we think we are. This changes our perceptions, morals, and values. It alters the way we see the world and if the news wasn’t biased, it have an alternative effect on us.
So what is the solution? How do audience members know that they’re receiving objective, non-biased news? It is vital that we try our hardest to filter through the news that could potentially be biased. But it is also important that we do not assume certain stations to be completely liberal or completely conservative. This could have a detrimental effect on our society and lead to public confusion regarding what messages are trying to be relayed to the public.
DellaVigna, Stefano, and Ethan Kaplan. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting*." Quarterly Journal of Economics 122.3 (2007): 1187-234. Print.
Turner, Joel. "The Messenger Overwhelming the Message: Ideological Cues and Perceptions of Bias in Television News." Political Behavior 29.4 (2007): 441-64. Print.