High-conflict television news and public opinion

  • Forgette R
  • Morris J
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This research assesses whether conflict-laden news coverage affects public perceptions of political institutions and political elites in general. Particularly, is conflict-oriented television news coverage of politics contributing to negative evaluations of political institutions and their leaders? We present evidence from an experiment designed to address this question. Our experiment is constructed around media coverage of the State of the Union Address. We control for the source of news (CNN), and examine how CNN's Crossfire and Inside Politics' coverage and analyses of the State of the Union Address influenced the attitudes and perceptions of viewers. We find that conflict-laden television coverage decreases public evaluations of political institutions, trust in leadership, and overall support for political parties and the system as a whole. Our findings have implications for public opinion in an era of increased abundance of high-conflict cable news talk shows that turn the political process into a contact sport.

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  • Richard Forgette

  • Jonathan S. Morris

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