It’s Not the Media, Stupid

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It is commonly believed that the general public is heavily dependent on the media for its political news and views and that, as a consequence, the media exercise a strong influence over public opinion and behaviour. However, many millions in the Western world strongly believe things that are barely ever mentioned in the mainstream media, just as many millions also firmly reject or ignore some of the messages that are repeated incessantly by them. This confirms sixty years of experimental psychology research showing that most individuals are capable of preserving their beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, argument and logic to the contrary. Consistent with this, political science research finds little evidence of strong media influence on the party voting, political attitudes and election agendas of citizens. They have their own ways of gathering political information about the world around them, and they do not necessarily believe what they read in the papers, unless they are so inclined to start with. Consequently, media influences on mass opinion and behaviour are weaker than commonly assumed and, such as they are, their effects are more beneficial than harmful for democracy.




Newton, K. (2019). It’s Not the Media, Stupid. Political Quarterly, 90(3), 543–552.

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