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No Need to Watch: How the Effects of Partisan Media can Spread via Inter-Personal Discussions (WP-15-12)

James Druckman, Matthew Levendusky, and Audrey McLain

Over the last quarter-century, the political news landscape has transformed. One notable change has been the rise of partisan media sources. How do partisan media sources influence public opinion? The researchers address this question by exploring not only how partisan media directly influence individuals’ attitudes, but also how interpersonal discussions shape the impact of partisan media. They present experimental results showing that, depending on the nature of the discussion group, conversations can nullify or amplify partisan media effects. Perhaps more importantly, they also find that those who are not directly exposed to partisan media are still susceptible to its effects. This occurs via a two-stage process such that exposed individuals influence those who have not been previously exposed. The researchers conclude with a discussion of what these results imply about the study of media effects and partisan polarization. 

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science, Associate Director and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Matthew Levendusky, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Audrey McLain, Graduate Student, Department of Political Science, Yale University

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