According to the research team, the influence of media on political views is limited because people react to them very differently and there are many personal factors at play. "Political persuasion is hard. If it were easy, the world would look a lot different today," says Adam Berinsky, a professor at MIT and co-author of the study.
To determine how biased coverage affects viewers' political views, the MIT team conducted a series of experiments and surveys with several subgroups of subjects. These were divided based on factors such as ideology and preferences in media. The researchers showed study participants political content from partisan and nonpartisan media and tested their reaction to it.
It turned out that respondents who voluntarily consume partisan media are less influenced by its content than those who are more inclined towards nonpartisan media. This means that non-political people who do not have a fixed opinion are more likely to be persuaded than those who already know what their preference is. According to the researchers, just one exposure to partisan media can shift a previously apolitical person's political orientation by a third. Partisan viewers could also be influenced by partisan reporting, but it was much less so, they said.
Berinsky points out that most people in the US are not interested in political news. Influence by partisan media is unlikely among a large portion of the population, he says. "We've only found that these people are impressionable because we've forced them to watch the news," Berinsky said. In the future, the scientists also want to explore the effects of reporting that is against the views of the viewers. (pte)