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Political Socialization in a Media-Saturated World

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Edited By Esther Thorson, Mitchell S. McKinney and Dhavan Shah

The studies that comprise Political Socialization in a Media Saturated World synthesize, question, and update our knowledge of political socialization that has accumulated over the past 40 years of related research. The scholarship advances innovative theoretical perspectives and develops new models of the socialization process that revolve around the key social structures of family, media, peers, and school. The Hierarchy Model of Political Socialization, in particular, provides a comprehensive conceptual framework for organizing and analyzing youth responses to the political. With research that spans multiple election cycles across nearly a decade, and data drawn from a national panel study that allows for cross-generational comparison, the findings and models of political socialization presented provide the most comprehensive and in-depth examination of youth political socialization that exists to date. This book provides a foundation and research agenda for examining the Millennial generation in the coming years as these citizens mature to adults and become the driving force of society and our polity.
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Chapter Twenty-One: The Origins of Media Perceptions: Judgments of News Accuracy and Bias Among Adolescents

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CHAPTER TWENTY - ONE

The Origins OF Media Perceptions

Judgments of News Accuracy and Bias Among Adolescents

PORISMITA BORAH AND DHAVAN SHAH



During presidential campaigns, questions of news media accuracy and bias become the focus of much attention and debate. Given that news media coverage is related to public opinion about the presidential candidates (Domke et al., 1997), contenders are determined to ensure that media coverage does not favor their opponents. Despite claims to the contrary, research has found limited evidence of the existence of political media bias during presidential campaigns. Although some suggest a slight liberal bias in terms of sound bites during the 1992 and 1996 campaigns (Lowry & Shidler, 1998), other research has found little or no consistent political bias (Johnson, 1993; Watts, Domke, Shah, & Fan, 1999). Rather than an ideological bias, news values of conflict and the use of horse-race coverage of the campaigns may encourage a front-runner bias in coverage (Johnson, 1993).

Nonetheless, perceptions of media bias are a fixture of modern electoral politics. This perception has risen consistently across and within campaigns, with perceptions of a liberal bias rising most dramatically. One explanation for the increase in perceptions of poor media performance is that it is not actual bias that drives these perceptions, but media coverage of political elites’ accusations of bias (Watts et al., 1999). Others assert that there is also an interpersonal dimension to these perceptions,...

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