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Selective Exposure to Cable News and Immigration in the U.S.: The Relationship Between FOX News, CNN, and Attitudes Toward Mexican Immigrants



In the past 2 decades, cable television and the Internet have greatly increased the availability of media content. The phenomenon has reinvigorated a longstanding debate about the effects of this media landscape, as people selectively get exposed to specific content. Based on U.S. national survey data, this article advances research in this area by analyzing the interplay between individuals' ideological predispositions, their selective exposure to cable news, and the relationship between selective exposure and their attitudes toward an issue with key policy-making implications: Mexican immigration. Results indicate conservative Republicans are more likely to watch FOX News, which is associated with negative perceptions of Mexican immigrants and higher support for restrictive immigration policies. Findings also suggest that liberals who get exposed to FOX News also show less support for Mexican immigration.
Selective Exposure to Cable News and
Immigration in the U.S.: The Relationship
Between FOX News, CNN, and Attitudes
Toward Mexican Immigrants
Homero Gil de Zúñiga, Teresa Correa, and
Sebastian Valenzuela
In the past 2 decades, cable television and the Internet have greatly in-
creased the availability of media content. The phenomenon has reinvigorated
a longstanding debate about the effects of this media landscape, as people
selectively get exposed to specific content. Based on U.S. national survey data,
this article advances research in this area by analyzing the interplay between
individuals’ ideological predispositions, their selective exposure to cable news,
and the relationship between selective exposure and their attitudes toward
an issue with key policy-making implications: Mexican immigration. Results
indicate conservative Republicans are more likely to watch FOX News, which
is associated with negative perceptions of Mexicanimmigrants and higher sup-
port for restrictive immigration policies. Findings also suggest that liberals who
get exposed to FOX News also show less support for Mexican immigration.
In the past 2 decades, cable television and the Internet have exponentially increased
the choice of media content available in U.S. households. For instance, as of 2006,
there were more than 560 national cable programming networks (NCTA, 2010). By
2009, nearly 55% of Americans were using the Internet every day and spending,
on average, 60 hours a month online, according to data from Nielsen and the Pew
Internet and American Life Project (Smith, 2010).
Homero Gil de Zúñiga (Ph.D., Universida d Europea de Madrid; Ph.D. University of Wisconsin–Madison)
is an assistant professor at U niversity of Texas–Austin where he heads the Community, Journalism and
Communication Research (CJCR) unit within the School of Journalism. His research focuses on all forms of
new technologies and digital media and their effects on society. In particular, he investigates the influence
of Internet use in people’s daily lives, as well as the effect of such use on the overall democratic process.
Teresa Correa (Doctoral candida te, University of Texa s at Austin) is an assistant professor in the School
of Journalism at Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile. Her research interests include new digital
inclusion and media sociology.
Sebastian Valenzuela (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is an assistant professor in the School
of Communications at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. His research interests include political
communication, public opinion, social media, and communication technologies.
©2012 Broadcast Education Association Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56(4), 2012, pp. 597–615
DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2012.732138 ISSN: 0883-8151 print/1550-6878 online
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598 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/December 2012
This growing choice of content has led to a fragmentation of audiences. As a
result, scholars are paying attention to media selective exposure and its potential
effects on public opinion formation. Existing research has examined the impact
of greater media choice on gaps in political knowledge, polarization of elections,
reinforcement of extreme attitudes toward political figures, and the resurgence of
a partisan, oppositional press—just to name a few areas of inquiry (Bachmann,
Kaufhold, Lewis, & Gil de Zúñiga, 2010; Garrett et al., 2012; Iyengar & Hahn,
2009a; Johnson, Bichard, & Zhang, 2009; Stroud, 2007, 2008; Valentino, Banks,
Hutchings, & Davis, 2009; Valenzuela, Kim, & Gil de Zúñiga, 2012).
The literature, however, falls short in exploring the consequences of media choice
and audience selectivity for public opinion formation on issues of great importance.
For instance, how does the current media environment influence perceptions about
particular social groups and people’s attitudes toward controversial issues? When
citizens choose to watch a particular news channel based on ideological grounds,
does it have an effect on policy preferences? If so, what kind of effects?
Study of the attitudinal consequences of selective exposure is an area that lags
behind other aspects of the theory. Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate on
whether selective exposure can be understood as a media effect (cf., Holbert,
Garrett, & Gleason, 2010; Bennett & Iyengar, 2008; Stroud, 2008). On the one
hand, scholars suggest that the occurrence of selective exposure is leading to an era
of ‘‘minimal effects’’ because the media would have limited power to change beliefs
when people get exposed to messages that match their predispositions (Bennett &
Iyengar, 2008). On the other hand, research suggests that selective exposure to
certain media has polarizing and reinforcing effects (Holbert et al., 2010; Stroud,
This article advances the literature by analyzing the interplay between individuals’
ideological predispositions and their selective exposure to cable news channels.
Furthermore, this article advances how these predispositions and selective me-
dia exposure relate to people’s attitudes toward certain social groups (Mexican
immigrants). This topic may be of great value in today’s U.S. context as it has
implications for immigration policy. Thus, the ultimate purpose of the study is to
examine how selective exposure and ideological reinforcement are associated with
the public’s attitudes toward social groups and the public’s policy choices toward
these same groups. For that purpose, we conducted a survey of a national sample
of U.S. residents. The survey was designed specifically to measure ideological
orientations and exposure to particular media channels, as well as respondents’
views on Mexican immigrants and policy preferences toward Mexican immigration.
We focused on Mexican immigration to the US for several reasons. The issue
has been at the forefront of public debate in the last decade. For instance, the
2006 rallies for comprehensive immigration reform attracted millions of protesters
across 102 cities (Balz & Fears, 2006; Dunaway, Branton, & Abrajano, 2010).
Also, Arizona’s 2010 legislation against undocumented immigrants has captured the
attention of the media, the public, and policymakers (Riccardi, 2010). In addition,
immigrants of Mexican origin constitute an important share of the U.S. population.
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According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center (2009), the number of Mexican
immigrants living in the US has increased by 17 times since 1970, reaching a
record 12.7 million in 2008, by far the largest immigrant minority in the country.
Lastly, existing research on the effects of media choice and selectivity on public
opinion formation has focused almost exclusively on elections, candidates, and
political parties. In this context, Mexican immigration represents fertile new ground
for research.
Because the evidence suggests that audience selectivity is particularly evident
in the cable news networks, FOX News and CNN—with conservative Republicans
preferring FOX News while liberal Democrats lean toward CNN (Iyengar & Hahn,
2009; Stroud, 2007)—we investigate partisan selective exposure and its association
with attitudes toward Mexican immigration by gauging exposure to these cable
networks in particular.
Partisan Selective Exposure on Cable Television
Selective exposure is the process by which people deliberately select information
channels that match their predispositions and beliefs (Stroud, 2007, 2008). Although
this concept is not new and has been subject of scholarly scrutiny for decades, it
has garnered renewed attention as the media environment fragments and people
have more opportunities to choose their media.
Developed from cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957), early research
in the 1960s posited that selective exposure helped people to reduce cognitive
dissonance by looking for information that agreed with their opinions and avoided
messages that challenged them (e.g., Klapper, 1960). Subsequent studies, however,
challenged those assumptions by arguing that human evolution could not have
happened by seeking out redundant information only (McGuire, 1968).
Although in the current media landscape the occurrence of selective exposure
remains a contested area of research (Kinder, 2003; Zaller, 1992), scholars have
argued that rather than avoiding dissonance, selective exposure is a strategy to
process information in a more effective way (Smith, Fabrigar, & Norris, 2008;
Stroud, 2008). The development of cable television and online platforms has led to a
fragmentation of the media that compete for the creation of niche audiences and give
people more media choices (Prior, 2007). Because people have a limited capacity
to process mediated information (Lang, 2000), and processing attitude-consistent
information requires less cognitive effort than counter-attitudinal messages (Edwards
& Smith, 1996), it is more efficient to select information that matches one’s beliefs
and predispositions, as convergent pieces of information also facilitate a smoother
cognitive assimilation and information processing (Cho, Gil de Zúñiga, Shah, &
McLeod, 2006).
Selective exposure can occur in many areas, including information on child
development (Adams, 1961) and general news exposure (Knobloch, Dillman Car-
pentier, & Zillmann, 2003). Research has found, however, that in politics selective
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exposure is more likely to occur because individuals tend to have stable political
predispositions. Thus, political ideology or partisanship is an accessible shortcut
to choose an information channel (Chaffee, Saphir, Grap, Sandvig, & Hahn, 2001;
Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; Johnson et al., 2009; Knobloch-Westerwick & Meng, 2009;
Stroud, 2007, 2008). For this reason, this study integrates socio-political ideology
with selective exposure.
It has been found that selective exposure is particularly salient with cable news
networks and certain online sites (Jamieson & Cappella, 2009) which provide in-
creasingly polarized content to match their audiences’ ideological preferences. Up
to the 1980s, the news consistently offered a ‘‘point-counterpoint’’ approach to news
related to notions of fairness, balance, and objectivity (Iyengar & Hahn, 2009). How-
ever, as cable news and Internet sites erupted, this balanced approach faded away
(Prior, 2007). The increasing competition led news organizations to create niche au-
diences by catering to audiences’ predispositions (Mullainathan & Schleifer, 2005).
In the cable industry, FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC describe themselves as news
outlets reporting with a sense of equilibrium and fairness in their views, representing
both sides of the political spectrum when covering any given story. However,
studies suggest that they are not so balanced, particularly FOX News. For instance,
a comparison between FOX News, Associated Press, and UPI revealed that FOX
News leaned significantly toward conservative and Republican beliefs compared
to the other two news organizations (Groeling & Baum, 2007). Similarly, content
analyses have found that FOX News showed a pro-conservative slant compared to
the other cable outlets in coverage of the Iraq War (Aday, Livingston, & Herbert,
2005) and the 2004 presidential campaign (Project for Excellence in Journalism,
2004). Finally, Groseclose and Milyo’s (2005) study revealed that CNN’s program
News Night leaned toward the left compared to FOX News’ Special Report.
Not surprisingly, the ideological sorting of the cable networks has transferred
to their audiences. Using survey data, Iyengar and Hahn (2009) found that while
‘‘conservatives and Republicans preferred to read news attributed to FOX News
and to avoid news from CNN and NPR, democrats and liberals exhibited exactly
the opposite syndrome’’ (p. 19). Using cross-sectional and panel survey data to
generalize to the population and demonstrate causal links, Stroud (2007) found that
during the 2004 presidential election conservative Republicans were more likely to
read newspapers endorsing Bush, listen to conservative talk radio, and watch FOX
News. On the other hand, liberal Democrats were more likely to read newspapers
endorsing Kerry, listen to liberal radio, and watch CNN and MSNBC.
Based on the above literature, the first hypothesis that will be tested in the study
H1: Individuals will select cable news channels that support their political
Specifically, conservative Republicans will use FOX News more often than CNN,
while liberal Democrats will use CNN more often than FOX News.
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Limited or Strong Media Effects?
Whether growing levels of partisan selective exposure reflect a media effect has
been the subject of debate among communication scholars. Recently, Bennett and
Iyengar (2008) warned that ‘‘the increasing level of selective exposure based on
partisan preference ::: presages a new era of minimal consequences, at least insofar
as persuasive effects is concerned’’ (p. 725). In other words, people who are exposed
to messages that match their own beliefs are less likely to change those beliefs
and, as a consequence, the media will have limited power to change attitudes
and persuade users. Holbert and colleagues (2010), however, have suggested that
selective consumption of media leads to attitude strengthening and reinforcement,
which are strong media effects. This line of reasoning has been supported by
both cross-sectional and time-series analyses conducted by Stroud (2007, 2008,
2010), who has found that people’s political attitudes become more polarized
over time after repeated exposure to politically and ideologically consistent media
From a normative perspective, the polarizing and reinforcing impact of selective
exposure is not innocuous for the democratic process. Exposure to messages that
only reinforce preexisting beliefs leads to an echo-chamber effect, in which media
use triggers attitude extremity and polarization (Mutz & Martin, 2001; Stroud, 2008).
Thus, this study not only seeks to examine to what extent citizens selectively get
exposed to a particular cable news media outlet but also the potential effects the
exposure may have on positions toward relevant policy issues, such as people’s
perception on Mexican immigration. More specifically, this study attempts to build
on this line of research by examining the attitudinal effects toward Mexican im-
migration among both CNN and FOX News viewers, as well as the polarizing or
reinforcing effects of watching these news outlets.
Immigration in the U.S. Press
Immigration, particularly from Latin American countries, has been one of the most
salient issues in the U.S. national agenda over the past 2 decades and has become
the focus of heated debate among policymakers. For example, California’s Propo-
sition 187, approved by voters in 1994 but rejected by the federal courts, planned
to cut off social services for undocumented immigrants and triggered an intense
public discussion over the issue of immigration. According to Pew Research Center
polls, in 2007 nearly 55% of Americans said that illegal immigration should be a
top priority for government (Keeter, 2009). Furthermore, during the 2008 primary
elections, some Republican caucuses argued immigration was more important than
any other issue (Brader, Valentino, & Suhay, 2008).
The issue of immigration in the US is not ethnically neutral. The largest immi-
grant population comes from Latin America, and the majority of Latin American
immigrants are Mexican (Pew Research Center, 2009). Of those who identify as
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602 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/December 2012
Mexican or Mexican-American, four out of ten were born abroad and arrived
in the US in 1990 or later (Pew Research Center, 2009). Public attitudes toward
immigrants are not ethnically neutral either. Experimental studies have shown that
individuals’ attitudes toward immigration are more negative when the news features
Latino immigrants, rather than European immigrants (Brader et al., 2008).
Several factors predict people’s views on immigration. Individuals with lower
education, those who are older, and females tend to have more negative attitudes
toward tolerant immigration policies (Espenshade & Calhoun, 1993; Simon, 1987). A
stronger and more consistent predictor is political ideology. In the US, conservative
Republicans tend to have a more negative view toward immigrants and immigration
(both of the documented and undocumented types) and are more opposed to open
immigration policies compared to liberal Democrats (Bierbrauer & Klinger, 2002;
Doherty, 2006; Huddy & Sears, 1995). From a social justice perspective, liberals
are more sensitive toward the context of immigrants in need whereas conserva-
tives have a higher motivation to punish norm deviance and violations and are
more likely to attribute personal responsibility for their plight (Skitka & Tetlock,
1993). In order to confirm these expectations, the following hypothesis will be
H2: Individuals’ political ideology will be related to their views on Mexican
immigration. Specifically, conservative Republicans will have more negative
attitudes toward Mexican immigration than liberal Democrats.
People’s views toward immigrants and immigration are fed and shaped by the
media. The media consistently under represent and stereotype certain immigrant
groups, particularly Muslims and Latinos (Correa, 2010). In the case of Latinos, an
exhaustive content analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only
2.9% of the news in the US contained references to Latinos. Studies have also found
that they are depicted as a burden for society in issues related to illegality, crime, and
affirmative action (Subervi, Torres, & Nontalvo, 2005). Furthermore, scholars have
analyzed that the news media rhetorically associate the ‘‘flow’’ of immigrants with
negative metaphors such as invaders, destructive floodwaters, and pollutants that
contaminate American ‘‘purity’’ (Cisneros, 2008). Regarding Mexican immigration,
a study of the U.S. network news coverage between 1971 and 2000 revealed that
in the 1970s and part of 1980s immigration and border problems were depicted as
a few states’ problems. Over time, Mexican immigration coverage was portrayed as
part of the national agenda and became increasingly associated with violence and
economic costs for the US. (Johnson, 2003).
This negative image of immigration in general and Mexican immigration in par-
ticular, has pervaded the news media in general, including FOX News and CNN
(Cisneros, 2008). For instance, in line with its ideological inclination, a study of
FOX’s Bill O’Reilly, who is considered a journalist by 40% of the American public
(Annenberg Public Policy Center, 2005), concluded that he portrayed immigrants as
evil ‘‘illegal aliens’’ and ‘‘foreigners’’ (Conway, Grabe, & Grieves, 2007). Therefore,
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it is possible that persistent exposure to polarized channels leads viewers to think
about Mexican immigration in a way that is consistent with those outlets. However,
because it is not entirely clear whether FOX News portrays Mexican immigration
in a more negative light than CNN, we pose the following research question:
RQ1: Do individuals who watch FOX News exhibit more negative attitudes to-
ward Mexican immigration than individuals who watch CNN, even after
controlling for individuals’ political ideology?
Furthermore, if partisan selective exposure reinforces individuals’ attitudes, par-
ticularly when they hold more extreme political views, it is necessary to examine
for possible polarization effects toward Mexican immigration. Hence,
RQ2: Is partisan selective exposure associated with more polarized attitudes to-
ward Mexican immigration?
The data used in this study are based on a U.S. national survey collected be-
tween December 15, 2008, and January 5, 2009, by a research unit hosted at the
University of Texas at Austin.1To overcome the limitations of Web surveys and
assure an accurate representation of the national adult population, the research unit
based this particular sample on two U.S. census variables: gender and age. The
procedure of matching online samples with census data to provide a more accurate
representation of the population has been validated by previous research (Gil de
Zúñiga & Valenzuela, 2010, 2011; Iyengar & Hahn, 2009). The survey instrument
was administered using Qualtrics, a Web survey software, and was pilot-tested
before actual fieldwork.
After matching a 10,000 random draw to these demographic characteristics, a
total of 1,432 email addresses were invalid. Of the remaining 8,568 participants,
1,159 responded on all items and 323 had missing values for some of the variables
of interest in the analysis. Accordingly, based on the American Association of
Public Opinion Research’s (AAPOR) RR3 calculation, the response rate was 22.8%
(AAPOR, 2008, pp. 34–35).2This relatively low response rate falls within the
acceptable range for panel Web-based surveys (Sax, Gilmartin, & Bryant, 2003).
Compared to U.S. Census data, our sample had more females and was slightly better
educated. Nevertheless, the demographic breakdown of our sample was similar to
that of surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and other organizations
that employ random digit dialing (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2009),
which seems to lend support to how well our sample statistics estimate overall U.S.
population parameters.
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Control Variables
According to extant literature, demographic variables may have an influence on
many of our variables of interest. Research shows a stable statistical relationship
between people’s demographic characteristics and whether they consume more
or less news (Althaus & Tewksbury, 2000; Kaufhold, Valenzuela, & Gil de Zúñiga,
2010; Reagan, 1987). Demographics also have an effect on attitudinal variables such
as support for immigration (Davidov, Meuleman, Billiet, & Schmidt, 2008; Hood &
Morris, 1997). In this study a set of controls was introduced to eliminate potential
confounding relationships in our analyses. In addition to respondents’ gender (67%
females), age (M D45.79, SD D11.31) and race (84% whites); education and
income were also included in the models. Education was measured with a 7-point
scale ranging from less than high school to doctoral degree (M D4.11, Mdn D2-year
college degree, SD D1.50). For income, each respondent chose 1 of 15 categories
of total annual household income (M D6.05, Mdn D$50,000 to $59,999, SD D
Socio-political Ideology.
Building on previous work in the context of political communication (Allsop
& Weisberg, 1988; Keum et al., 2006; Shah, McLeod, & Yoon, 2001), we have
combined the notion of political affiliation or party identification with a measure
of citizens’ ideological preferences on economic and social issues. The goal was to
achieve a comprehensive measure that broadly captured whether respondents have
a socio-political ideology. This combined ideological measure was operationalized
in three different items. The first item measured their party identification using an
11-point scale ranging from strong Republican (8.7% of respondents) to strong
Democrat (13.2% of respondents). The other two items registered respondents’
preferences on social and economic issues using an 11-point scale, ranging from
very conservative to very liberal. Therefore this index includes all three items:
1) people’s political affiliation, 2) citizens’ ideological preference on economic
issues, and 3) citizens’ ideological preference on social issues. In this way, the
validity of the scale is established as it has been previously tested in the literature. It
is also exhaustive as it registers different dimensions of what it means to be liberal
or conservative, which is central to this study. The scale is reliable as reflected by
the Cronbach’s ˛achieved (Cronbach’s ˛D.88, M D18.01, SD D8.05).
News Exposure.
One of the main goals in this study was to test the relationship between media
exposure, specifically to cable news (FOX News/CNN), and its effects on people’s
support for Mexican immigration. Therefore, the media use controls employed
here were as exhaustive as possible, and included a broad variety of news uses
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that also included digital media and social media sources, social network sites,
citizen journalism sources, and blogs. All of which have been associated with
political attitudes and behaviors (Gil de Zúñiga, 2009; Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2011).
Respondents were asked to rate on a 7-point scale how often they used the following
media to get information about current events and public issues: network TV news,
cable TV news, local TV news, radio news, print newspapers, online newspapers,
print news magazines, online news magazines, news reports generated by regular
people, blogs, and social network sites. The items were reverse-coded, so that a
higher number indicated more news consumption, and combined into an additive
index (Cronbach’s ˛D.73, M D39.92, SD D9.87).
Criterion Variables
Cable News Use.
Once the overall use of media has been residualized, this study introduces two
measurements that registered the level of exposure to FOX News and CNN. Both
items were operationalized as dummy variables by asking subjects to report which
cable news network they watch most often to get information about current news,
issues, and events: FOX News (Yes D28.2%, M D.36, SD D.43); CNN (Yes D
31.8%, M D.41, SD D.42).
Support for Mexican Immigration.
This variable attempts to capture respondents’ attitudes toward immigration. Pre-
vious research has measured this concept with items that register both the degree
to which immigrants may contribute to different values in one’s country (see for
instance, O’Rourke & Sinnott, 2006), the implications of immigration as a process,
and how the government should react to them (Espenshade & Calhoun, 1993;
Fennelly & Federico, 2008). Building on this research, the index included 10 items
asking on a 10-point Likert-type scale to what extent the government shouldpromote
Mexican immigration, legalize it, and increase raids and deportation sweeps (re-
coded). It also tapped respondents’ agreement or disagreement levels to statements
about how much Mexican immigration contributes to U.S. values, economy, cul-
ture, education, security, and workforce (Cronbach’s ˛D.92, M D43.8, SD D
Statistical Analysis
In order to test the proposed hypotheses and research questions, examining the
role of watching FOX News and CNN, we employed zero order Pearson’s corre-
lations as well as hierarchical regression analyses. In the regressions, the variables
were entered causally in separate blocks; with the demographic variables included
first (age, gender, etc) and socio-political orientations and media use added as a
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606 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/December 2012
second block. The third block consisted of cable news use (FOX News and CNN)
as the independent variables of interest. All the analyses were conducted using SPSS
The first hypothesis in this study deals with the proposition that individuals’ socio-
political ideology will be related to which cable news outlet they watch most
often. Results from Pearson’s partial correlations support the hypothesis, yielding
consonant outcomes with extant literature (i.e., Iyengar & Hahn, 2009). The more
conservative a person is, the more inclined they will be to watch FOX News (r D.38,
p<.001), and the less likely they will be to watch CNN (r D.18, p <.001). Also,
subjects who are more liberal prefer to watch CNN, and prefer to watch less FOX
News on cable television (r D.23, p <.001; r D.37, p <.001, respectively). The
second hypothesis, that individuals’ political ideology will be related to their views
on Mexican immigration, also was supported. Specifically, conservative individuals
will have more negative attitudes toward Mexican immigration (r D.25, p <.001;
ˇD.158, p <.001) than those with a more liberal socio-political ideology (r D
.30, p <.001; ˇD.205, p <.001; see Table 1 and Table 2). It should be noted that
Fox News and CNN variables should not be correlated to one another employing
Pearson’s correlation test as they are both dichotomous variables. A Spearman’s
coefficient of correlation should be calculated or alternatively, the Phi value with
a Bonferroni test to correct for the appropriate p-value may also be used as an
option (see Hayes, 2005, pp. 263–264). In this instance, we tested these alternative
correlations for comparison purposes and changes were almost imperceptible as the
Table 1
Zero-Order and Partial Correlations between Socio-Political Orientations,
Cable News Use and Support for Mexican Immigration
Variables 12345
1. Conservative .77*** .40*** .20*** .30***
2. Liberal .76*** — .41*** .25*** .35***
3. FOX News .38*** .37*** — .63*** .29***
4. CNN .18*** .23*** .62*** — .21***
5. Immigration .25*** .30*** .26*** .18***
Note. Zero order correlations are on top diagonal and partial correlations at the bottom
Partial correlation controls are age, gender, education, income, race and media use.
ND781 (zero order); ND740 (partial).
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001.
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Table 2
Cable News Use Predicting Support for Mexican Immigration
Block 1: Demographics
Age .141***
Gender (female) .014
Education .242***
Income .084*
Race (white) .013
R2(%) 13.2***
Block 2: Media & SP Orientations
News Use .089*
Conservatives .158***
Liberals .205***
R2(%) 9.8***
Block 4: Cable News Use
CNN .031
FOX News .134***
R2(%) 2.1***
Total R2(%) 25.1***
ND742. Cell entries are final-entry OLS standardized Beta coefficients.
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001.
coefficients remained very similar. For instance, FOX News and CNN are correlated
at a .63 with Pearson’s correlation test and a Spearman’s correlation test yielded
a.65. According to Hayes (2005) the interpretation of the sign between these two
tests is the same, however the interpretation of the size of the effect is a bit more
ambiguous as ‘‘the square of the Spearman’s coefficient cannot be interpreted as
a measure of the percent of variance in one variable explained by variation in the
other.’’ The Phi test provided similar results although the comparison is even less
interpretative. Given these results we have left the original analyses in the table for
the sake of comparability and to provide readers the possibility to calculate and
interpret the magnitude of the relationship (for more on comparative analyses see
Gil de Zúñiga, Jung, & Valenzuela, 2012).
In addition to these hypotheses, two research questions were posed. The first ques-
tion investigated whether individuals who watch FOX News exhibit more negative
attitudes toward Mexican immigration than individuals who watch CNN, even after
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608 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/December 2012
controlling for the effect of individuals’ political ideology. The regression model to
predict support for Mexican immigration explained a total of 25.1% of the variance
in the dependent variable. Demographic controls explained the largest portion of
variance in the model, 13.2% (R2D.132, p <.001), followed by the media use
and socio-political orientations block, which added 9.8% of incremental variance
explained (R2D.982, p <.001), and cable news use with 2.1% (R2D.214, p <
.001). It is important to note that the incremental variance explained by exposure
to cable news block is above and beyond the effect (explained variance) that
all demographic variables and other socio-political orientations have on people’s
support for Mexican immigration.
Among demographic variables, age (ˇD.141, p <.001), education (ˇD.242,
p<.001) and income (ˇD.084, p <.05) were all important predictors of the
dependent variable. Younger people and citizens with higher levels of income and
education tend to support Mexican immigration. General media use and socio-
political orientations also have a sound predicting power over the levels of support
for Mexican immigration. While being liberal tends to be positively associated with
supporting Mexican immigration (ˇD.242, p <.001), being conservative and, in a
milder way, getting exposed to media in general negatively predict pro-immigration
attitudes (ˇD.158, p <.001; ˇD.089, p <.05). After all these controls,
results also indicate that selective exposure to FOX News is negatively associated
with supporting immigration (ˇD.134, p <.001). The more individuals watch
FOX News, the less likely they will be to support Mexican immigration. On the other
hand, getting the news from CNN has no relationship whatsoever with shaping any
pro- or anti-immigration attitudes among U.S. citizens (ˇD.031, p <.11), once all
controls are included in the model (see Table 2).
The second research question explored the ways in which partisan selective
exposure may lead individuals to more polarized attitudes toward Mexican im-
migration. Thus, the sample was divided into two subgroups: those who reported a
conservative sociopolitical inclination and those who reported to be liberal. Results
indicate that after controlling for demographic variables and general media use,
being exposed to FOX News was associated with a polarizing and reinforcing effect
for both conservatives (ˇD.200, p <.001) and liberals (ˇD.114, p <.01).
Conservatives selectively exposed to FOX News showed a reinforcing effect in terms
of their negative support for Mexican immigration. On the other hand, liberals who
got selectively exposed to FOX News were also less likely to endorse pro-Mexican
immigration attitudes. The model explained 14.3% of the variance (R2D.142, p <
.001) for the group of conservative individuals and 16% (R2D.160, p <.001), for
liberal subjects. Overall, for both groups, the same set of demographic and variables
and media use seem to predict their level of support for Mexican immigration. The
younger (ˇD.150, p <.01 for conservative; ˇD.127, p <.01, for liberal), and
more educated (conservative: ˇD.247, p <.001; liberals: ˇD.271, p <.001)
people in the sample tend to have positive views and attitudes on immigration,
while general exposure to media inflicts a negative predicting effect in this regard
(conservative: ˇD.093, p <.05; liberals: ˇD.108, p <.01) (see Table 3).
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Gil de Zúñiga, Correa, and Valenzuela/SELECTIVE EXPOSURE AND IMMIGRATION 609
Table 3
Exposure to FOX News Predicting Support for Mexican Immigration by
Socio-political Orientation Group
Conservatives Liberals
Block 1: Demographics
Age .150** .127**
Gender (female) .035 .029
Education .247*** .271***
Income .092 .087
Race (white) .002 .013
R2(%) 9.6*** 13.7***
Block 2: Media Use
News Use .093* .108**
R2(%) 1.2* 1.3*
Block 4: Cable News Use
FOX News .200*** .114**
R2(%) 3.4*** 1.1*
Total R2(%) 14.3*** 16***
ND199 (Conservative); ND87 (Liberal). Cell entries are final-entry OLS standardized Beta
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001.
The main purpose of this study was to examine the possible relationship between
selective exposure to cable news and the support for Mexican immigrants and
Mexican immigration—a key public issue in the US—while considering people’s
sociopolitical orientations. Traditionally, partisan selective exposure has been iden-
tified as evidence of limited media effects (Bennett & Iyengar, 2008). More recently,
partisan selective exposure has been found to have strong reinforcement and polar-
izing effects on individuals (Holbert et al., 2010; Stroud, 2007, 2008). Using survey
data on exposure to FOX News and CNN—prime examples of conservative and
mainstream news outlets in the US, respectively (Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; Stroud,
2007)—and perceptions about Mexican immigrants and support for particular im-
migration policies, this study provides a new basis for the line of research that
associates selective exposure with a polarizing effect of media.
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610 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/December 2012
First, the results showed that conservative Republicans are more likely to watch
FOX News and less likely to watch CNN than liberal Democrats who, in turn, are
more likely to watch CNN and less likely to watch FOX News. Second, even after
controlling for respondents’ partisanship and ideology, watching FOX News was
associated with negative perceptions of Mexican immigrants and higher support for
restrictive immigration policies. And, most importantly, the FOX News effect was
not constrained to conservative Republican respondents because liberal Democrats
who reported watching FOX News had more anti-immigrant attitudes than liberal
Democrats who did not.
The results of the study are noteworthy at several levels of analysis. First, they
speak in a loud voice about the negative implications that a more partisan press
may have on public opinion. Both CNN and FOX News claim to follow notions
of objectivity, presenting impartial information to the audience and reporting in a
balanced manner when covering the news. This study indicates that it is not entirely
the case for FOX News. In our exhaustive statistical models, we controlled for the
effects of demographic variables, and more importantly, the effect of other general
media use components. Being exposed to CNN had no relationship whatsoever on
the attitudes people hold against Mexican immigrants and immigration, while being
purposively exposed to FOX News was associated to negative, anti-immigration
Second, people’s ideological predispositions do not act as a barrier against the
negative effects of FOX News on people’s perceptions of Mexican immigration.
For conservative Republicans, FOX News acts as an echo chamber, reinforcing
their already negative inclinations against Mexican immigrants. But even for liberals
and Democrats, watching FOX News was significantly related to their support for
Mexican immigrants.
Another important finding was the negative association between general news
consumption and Mexican immigration. Although it is a mild relationship when
compared to FOX News, it was nonetheless statistically significant. That is, the
more people consume news across different outlets, the less support they report
toward Mexican immigrants and immigration. Why so? One possible explanation
is that selective exposure may be taking place not only when individuals watch
television news, but also when they read newspapers, listen to radio shows, or
browse the Internet. Lacking a more detailed knowledge of the exact outlets used
by our respondents, it is impossible to discern the exact nature of this negative
association. Future research, then, should go beyond comparisons of cable news
networks and examine possible reinforcement effects of particular newspapers,radio
shows and Web sites.
Further research is also needed to understand the effect of selective exposure to
CNN over immigration attitudes. In the partial correlations, the relationship between
watching CNN and supporting Mexican immigrants and immigration was positive.
However, in the regression analysis the associationwas reduced to non-significance.
This may be a statistical problem: when more controls are included in the regression
model, we are also reducing valuable degrees of freedom. On a more substantive
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Gil de Zúñiga, Correa, and Valenzuela/SELECTIVE EXPOSURE AND IMMIGRATION 611
side, it may also reveal that the important effect of CNN occurs via an interaction
with individuals’ sociopolitical ideology. This is likely a better explanation because
the partial correlations did not control for partisanship or ideology as we wanted to
examine these in more depth in the subsequent analyses.
Additionally, this study did not include analysis on the effects of individuals who
selectively got exposed to MSNBC as a potential partisan (liberal) media outlet.
It would be of great interest to first test whether or not selective exposure to this
channel leads to any media effect on the audience, and second, if so, whether that
effect is similar, stronger or milder than that exerted by FOX News and CNN. This
is of course, another recommendation for future research.
Despite the results of this study, the analysis has some limitations. As occurs
with any research that employs survey data, we were constrained to self-reports of
media use, which may yield inaccurate measures due to imperfect recall and social
desirability bias. However, the national survey data provide more generalizability
of the findings. Future research could complement this analysis by relying on actual
exposure data, as provided by TV ratings and through manipulation of exposure in a
controlled lab experiment. Another limitation is the cross-sectional nature of the data
employed, which is not the best method for testing causal-effects relationships and
cannot properly address issues of endogeneity between explanatory and outcome
variables. Therefore, we have carefully talked about associations rather than effects
throughout the article. To be more confident about the order of influences in
our hypotheses, we have addressed the possibility that immigration attitudes and
socio-political ideology are influenced by the same factors that affect exposure to
FOX News and CNN by taking into account a host of control variables. Certainly,
analyses of panel survey data and controlled experiments should be conducted in
the future.
Nevertheless, even acknowledging all these limitations, this study adds empirical
evidence to the current literature on the consequences of selective exposure on
issues that go beyond partisan politics such as attitudes toward Mexican immigrants
and immigration. Being selectively exposed to information that aligns with one’s
own views (i.e., conservatives exposed to FOX News) exerts a reinforcement attitu-
dinal effect against Mexican immigration. On the other hand, there’s also a media
effect for those who are selectively exposed to dissonant information to their views
(i.e., liberals exposed to FOX News) since they also reported negative views about
Mexican immigration. Thus, the findings of our study are consistent with research
that sees selective exposure as a source of political polarization, adding empirical
evidence to the debate on the subject. After all, media effects in today’s fragmented
media environment may not be so minimal.
1The selected panel members received the survey’s URL through an email invitation. This
invitation provided respondents with a time estimate to complete the survey and information
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612 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/December 2012
about a draw monetary incentive for their participation. The first invitation was sent December
15, 2008 and three reminders were submitted in the following 3 weeks.
2The formula for RR3 is (complete interviews)/(complete interviews Celigible nonre-
sponse Ce(unknown eligibility)), where ewas estimated using the proportional allocation
method, i.e., (eligible cases)/(eligible cases Cineligible cases).
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Using two-wave U.S. panel survey data, this study proposes a moderated serial mediation model to examine through what paths and under what conditions incidental exposure to counter-attitudinal information on social media would enhance or mitigate polarization. The findings suggest that such exposure can indirectly polarize attitude by eliciting passive scanning behaviors, but it can also indirectly attenuate attitude polarization first through active engagement with the counter-attitudinal information, then through cognitively elaborating on the information. However, the indirect depolarizing effect of incidental exposure to counter-attitudinal information on citizens’ attitude depends on the extent to which they are instrumentally motivated. The indirect effect occurs when an individual’s perceived utility of counter-attitudinal information is at a high and a middle level, but not at a low level. Implications of the findings are discussed.
This article investigates how three media outlets (the digital written editions of CNN, Fox News, and the BBC), perceived as politically partisan, framed the news on Edward Snowden, who disclosed sensitive cybersecurity issues. As the media is an influential actor in domestic and international politics, how the news coverage on Internet security flaws framed the facts under narrative dispute matters. Sentiment analyses were conducted on hundreds of articles published on the free-access written news websites between 2013-2018. The results show positive or negative sentiments expressed in most headlines, while more neutral texts are found in the news cores.
This article focuses on how exposure to different media genres relates to two components of attitudes, Muslims as a group and Islam as a religion. It also highlights how these components mediate the relationship between media exposure and behavioral intention, namely voting intention towards banning veiling in public spaces. The analysis builds on an online survey conducted in Switzerland. We found that exposure to specific media genres is not equally associated with attitudes towards Muslims versus attitudes towards Islam. Contrary to our expectation, we did not find the association to be stronger when it came to influencing attitudes towards Muslims as compared to influencing attitudes towards Islam. However, our findings clearly showed that it matters whether people consume news via television or newspapers, especially mass-market (commercial television and tabloids) versus upmarket news (public television and quality newspapers). Attitudes towards Muslims living in Switzerland are more negative among those consuming mass-market news than those consuming upmarket news. Anti-Islam attitudes, however, were only associated with reading newspapers—both tabloids and quality newspapers. The findings provided only partial support for the mediating role of attitudes towards Muslims and Islam concerning the indirect relation between media exposure and voting intention towards banning veiling.
If preferences on immigration policy respond to facts, widespread misinformation poses an obstacle to consensus. Does factual information about immigration indeed affect policy preferences? Are beliefs about immigration’s societal impact the mechanism through which factual information affects support for increased immigration? To address these questions, we conducted an original survey experiment, in which we presented a nationally representative sample of 2,049 Americans living in the United States with facts about immigrants’ English acquisition and immigrants’ impact on crime, jobs, and taxes—four domains with common misperceptions. Three of these factual domains (immigration’s impact on crime, jobs, and taxes) raise overall support for increased immigration. These facts also affect beliefs that are directly relevant to that information. Moreover, those beliefs mediate the effect of factual information on support for increased immigration. By contrast, information about English acquisition affects neither policy preferences nor beliefs about immigration’s impact. Facts can leverage social cognitions to change policy preferences.
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What is the relationship between new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the study of global political communication? This article reflects briefly on four important aspects of this complex question. We begin at the most concrete level, outlining several prominent empirical opportunities and challenges created by a globally interconnected digital communication network. Next, we examine how new ICTs matter, exploring the mechanisms through which diverse contemporary technologies alter the dynamics of political communication. Third, we consider what the changing landscape of mediated communication means for political communication theory. There is tension between the opportunity to advance existing theory and the need for radical new theorizing, and we argue that both approaches are relevant. We conclude by mapping out important research opportunities located at the intersection of new ICTs and political communication. 1 This paper is based on presentations given at the Transnational Connections conference held March 24– 25, 2010, in Segovia, Spain. Thanks to Chip Eveland, Erik Nisbet and the anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions, to other conference participants for their thoughtful questions and observations, and to Magdalena Wojcieszak and IE University for organizing and hosting the conference.
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This study compares the effects of consuming news preference online or offline on political participation. It also examines the variation in these effects between young and older adults. Given that young adults are disproportionately more intensive users of the Internet, Internet use may have varying effects on people’s political participation by their age. Secondary analysis of Pew data found that people’s preference for consuming news online versus offline explains a significant portion of variance of political participation, both online and offline. More importantly, the effects of online media preference were significantly stronger for young adults than for their older counterparts. These findings suggest that a preference for news online matters far more for younger adults than for older adults, and that the Internet may indeed be narrowing the participation gap between age groups.
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We examine the relationship between citizen-to-citizen discussions and online political participation considering various attributes of individuals' social networks: Modality, discussants' ties, diversity of opinions, and quality of argumentation. Using a national survey of U.S. residents we find that communication within networks is a significant predictor of web-based forms of political engagement, after controlling for offline participation, political orientations, news use, and socio-demographics. Consistent with the "strength of weak ties" argument, larger online networks and weak-tie discussion frequency are associated with online participation. While like-minded discussions are positively related to online participation, discussions with people who are not of like mind correlate negatively with it. Online network size and reasoning discussions were positively related to online participation, although these associations were rather weak compared to the role of other network characteristics.
Statistical Methods for Communication Science is the only statistical methods volume currently available that focuses exclusively on statistics in communication research. Writing in a straightforward, personal style, author Andrew F. Hayes offers this accessible and thorough introduction to statistical methods, starting with the fundamentals of measurement and moving on to discuss such key topics as sampling procedures, probability, reliability, hypothesis testing, simple correlation and regression, and analyses of variance and covariance. Hayes takes readers through each topic with clear explanations and illustrations. He provides a multitude of examples, all set in the context of communication research, thus engaging readers directly and helping them to see the relevance and importance of statistics to the field of communication. Highlights of this text include: * thorough and balanced coverage of topics; * integration of classical methods with modern "resampling" approaches to inference; * consideration of practical, "real world" issues; * numerous examples and applications, all drawn from communication research; * up-to-date information, with examples justifying use of various techniques; and * a CD with macros, data sets, figures, and additional materials. This unique book can be used as a stand-alone classroom text, a supplement to traditional research methods texts, or a useful reference manual. It will be invaluable to students, faculty, researchers, and practitioners in communication, and it will serve to advance the understanding and use of statistical methods throughout the discipline. © 2005 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
The media environment is changing. Today in the United States, the average viewer can choose from hundreds of channels, including several twenty-four hour news channels. News is on cell phones, on iPods, and online; it has become a ubiquitous and unavoidable reality in modern society. The purpose of this book is to examine systematically, how these differences in access and form of media affect political behaviour. Using experiments and new survey data, it shows how changes in the media environment reverberate through the political system, affecting news exposure, political learning, turnout, and voting behavior.
Objective. This article examines the effects of racial and ethnic context and various attitudinal and demographic variables on Anglo public opinion toward immigration. Methods. We use ordered probit to analyze nationwide survey and census data relating to immigration. Results. Anglos living in close proximity to large Asian populations are more likely than racially and ethnically isolated Anglos to favor increased immigration. Likewise, Anglos who have more positive impres sions of Asians and Hispanics and their potential impact on society favor more liberal immigration policies than do other Anglos. We also find that Californians favor more restrictive immigration policies than do other Americans. Conclusions. Our findings demonstrate that Anglo public opinion on immigration has prominent racial and ethnic components. Although the policy implications of these findings are rather unclear, it is obvious that we can no longer ignore the impact of racial and ethnic context on public opinion toward immigration.
We use national survey data to examine the extent to which various sources of political information expose people to dissimilar political views. We hypothesize that the individual's ability and desire to exercise selective exposure is a key factor in determining whether a given source produces exposure to dissimilar views. Although a lack of diverse perspectives is a common complaint against American news media, we find that individuals are exposed to far more dissimilar political views via news media than through interpersonal political discussants. The media advantage is rooted in the relative difficulty of selectively exposing oneself to those sources of information, as well as the lesser desire to do so, given the impersonal nature of mass media.