Conflicts between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong People: A Social Identity Perspective in explaining Hostile Media Effect and Third-Person Effect

TitleConflicts between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong People: A Social Identity Perspective in explaining Hostile Media Effect and Third-Person Effect
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Cao, B., Z. Chen, Y. J. Huang, and W. H. Lo
Affiliation (1st Author)City University of Hong Kong
Section or WGMediated Communication, Public Opinion and Society Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeMCPT4a
Slot Code (Keyword)MCPT4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleNew and Old Media Effects
Submission ID5757

The hostile media effect (HME) suggests that people tend to perceive neutral media articles as biased against their sides. This communication phenomenon has been especially interesting to public opinion scholars because people tend to infer public opinion based on this hostile media perception. They believe that others are influenced by the hostile media coverage. As a result, they perceive a climate of opinion that seems contrary to the opinion of the self (e.g., Christen, Kannaovakun, & Gunther, 2002; Gunther & Chia, 2001). This study adopts social identity perspective to examine the hostile media effect (HME) and perception of media influence. Membership of a social group may influence their perception of media coverage and media influence on others. We conducted our examination in the context of news coverage of mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people and mainland Chinese share the same racial backgrounds but not necessarily the same national or cultural identities, given by the colonial history of Hong Kong. After returning to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been a popular tourist spot for mainland Chinese to do sightseeing and shopping. The increasing interactions between the two parties have also caused rising tensions and conflicts, which were widely covered in the news media in both China and Hong Kong. How the two sides view the media coverage and how their social identity influences their perception of media coverage appears intriguing. We conducted a field experiment involving mainland Chinese (N=77) and Hong Kong (N=74) university students using a constructed neutral newspaper article as the stimuli. The results showed support for hostile media effects. Participants from Hong Kong and China each found the given article biased against their own group. This result suggests that group identity and categorization could be an explanation of the HME. This research also supports third-person effect (TPE) as the participants reported greater media influence on others than on the self. The magnitude of TPE appeared larger when people outside of their social groups formed the comparison group than when people of their social groups formed the comparison group. In sum, this study provides evidence that social identity theory helps explain why hostile media phenomenon occurs, and the social identity is found as predictor of HME in the context of Hong Kong society. It suggests that perceptions of hostile bias in news coverage is not only limited to partisans, but also happen among readers of different cultural identities. Moreover, it links up hostile media effect with third person effect, and further illustrates third person effect would happen even when neutral article is employed.

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