American Political Parties Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2877 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism


Additionally, viewers seek information that confirms what they already believe. Bernhardt et al. (2) quote Posner "… they want to be confirmed in their beliefs by seeing them echoed and elaborated by more articulate, authoritative and prestigious voices. So they accept, and many relish, a partisan press." Bernstein adds that people hear what they want to hear. "No one tunes in to Rush Limbaugh because they're not sure whether to trust Barack Obama or John Boehner; they tune in because they are already Limbaugh acolytes and want to hear him confirm their own views. Conversely, liberals tune in to Rachel Maddow to find out why they should be mad at Republicans this week."

Therefore, people seek out like-minded news organizations to confirm what they already believe, and when presented with new information than conflicts with their beliefs will reject the new information and keep their biases. According to Bernstein (2) this is why Republicans who watch Fox news continue to believe that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Muslim, or that American troops found "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. Bernhardt et al. (1) add that when voters' beliefs on key issues are false, media bias is often blamed. They point out, as indicated in Table 2; a large percentage of the U.S. population had mistaken beliefs about facts surrounding the Iraq war.

Table 2


Bush Supporters

Kerry Supporters

Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al-Qaeda




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Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. On September 11, 2001




Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded




Term Paper on American Political Parties the Political Assignment

Bernstein adds that this is particularly true for Fox News viewer who, pick up on and agree with the misleading hints and implications left by various commentators, and reject new, accurate information." According to Bernhardt et al. (2) "these beliefs differed substantially between liberals and conservatives, indicating that these groups receive information from different sources, and that some of these sources bias the news by suppressing or deemphasizing certain events that could be perceived as unfavorable by their respective audiences."

DellaVigna & Kaplan (1191) explain that although viewers may be aware of this media bias, they do not discount enough for media bias and are subject to non-rational persuasion. As a result, this exposure to media bias alters their beliefs and voting behavior. Bernhardt et al. (2) add that "in society with extreme partisans it can be profitable for media to gear the news to one side of the political spectrum. Thus, the desire of partisans to receive confirmatory news reinforces the externality problem so that political polarization can alter electoral outcomes."

Morris (710) argues that the main beneficiary of this polarization has been the Fox News Channel. According to Potter (1) Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, "created a channel with a clear identity and plenty of attitude, aimed directly at viewers fed up with what he calls the liberal slant of the mainstream media. While his competitors stuck to a broadcast model and tried to appeal to the widest possible audience, Fox found its niche by narrowcasting to viewers who wanted news from a particular perspective." This strategy has paid off. Morris (710) adds that Fox News which was founded in 1996, had replaced the Cable News Network (CNN) as the ratings news leader in the cable news wars, and has remained the highest-rated cable news source to date. Additionally, Morris (710) reports that 36% of all Republicans watch Fox News on a regular basis. 63% of all Republicans watched Fox News at least sometimes in 2004, and 22% of all Republicans reported using Fox News as the primary source of political information (more than any other news), compared to just 5% of Democrats. According to Morris (710) Fox News' success may be attributed to the network's ability "to appeal to conservatives who were disenchanted with traditional news and who perceived traditional venues as possessing a liberal bias."

DellaVigna & Kaplan conducted a study to examine the impact of media bias on voting. They considered how the entry and expansion of the Fox News cable channel between 1996 and 2000 contributed to the change in Republican vote share. The story of Fox News is idiosyncratic, in that it emerged through cable markets. The structure of cable markets allows researchers to examine each city where Fox News entered the market. DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) explain that in the 1996 election and prior the Fox News and the non-Fox news towns have indistinguishable voting patterns. DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) found that the entry of Fox News increased the Republican vote share in presidential elections by 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points. Since Fox News in 2000 was available in about 35% of households, the impact of Fox News on the two-party vote share in 2000 is estimate to be 0.15 to 0.2 percentage points, 200,000 votes nationwide. DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) argue that due to the closeness of the 2000 race, the Fox News Effect is likely to have been decisive. In considering the results with the towns' characteristics DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) found that Fox News had a smaller effect in rural areas, in Republican congressional districts, and in the South. They interpret the results to mean "that in these towns more people already voted Republican, and therefore the share of the population at risk of being convinced was smaller." In addition, the Fox News effect was reduced in areas with more channel availability (DellaVigna & Kaplan, 1189).

DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) also analyzed how Fox News impacted voting in most Senate races. They found that Fox news significantly increased the Republican vote share for Senate by 0.8 percentage points. DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) conclude that "Fox News appears to have induced a generalized ideological shift." Additionally, DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) found that Fox News significantly increased voter turnout, particularly in the more Democratic districts. DellaVigna & Kaplan (1189) therefore attribute the impact of Fox News on voting to the mobilization of voters, and particularly conservative voters in Democratic-leaning districts.

Bernstein argues however that Fox's impact on public opinion may not always be as beneficial for Republicans. According to Bernstein, those who watch Fox News are already believers in a particular ideal, and that Fox News does little to sway public opinion. They point to recent events that have turned public opinion against the GOP such as the unpopularity of the Iraq War, George W. Bush's approval rating due to the handling of Katrina, Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008, and the difficulty Fox News favorites Sarah Palin and the Tea Party candidates have faced in national polls.

This paper has presented evidence which suggests that there indeed may be a media bias. This bias has an impact on voters even when they are aware of it. The bias has been shown to impact voter turnout, the issues on which voters focus, and even on how the electorate votes. This is especially true with what has been dubbed the "Fox News Effect." The impact of Fox News is felt not only with voters, but also with other news organizations. One wonders how Walter Cronkite would view the state of journalism today. Potter explains that while CBS policy used to prohibit "the expression of editorial viewpoints by personnel," it is now embraced. Journalism is no longer an impartial observer and reporter of facts; it is now a contributor to these facts. According to DellaVigna & Kaplan "In a representative system of government, policy outcomes are affected by the political preferences and beliefs of the voters." The question then becomes, how is a biased media shaping these preferences and beliefs?

Works Cited

Abrajano, Marisa, and Simran Singh. "Examining the Link between Issue Attitudes and News Source: The Case of Latinos and Immigration Reform." Political Behavior 31.1 (2009): 1-30. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.

Bernhardt, Dan, Stefan Krasa, and Mattias Polborn. "Political Polarization and the Electoral Effects of Media Bias." Web. 9 May 2011.

Bernstein, Jonathan. "Media Matters?" The New Republic. (2011). Web. 8 May 2011.

Burns, Melinda. "Does Biased News Have a Time Bomb Effect?" Miller-McCune. (2009). Web. 6 May 2011.

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APA Style

American Political Parties.  (2011, May 10).  Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

MLA Format

"American Political Parties."  10 May 2011.  Web.  25 May 2020. <>.

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"American Political Parties."  May 10, 2011.  Accessed May 25, 2020.