Thinking of others. Effects of implicit and explicit media cues on climate-of-opinion perceptions.

TitleThinking of others. Effects of implicit and explicit media cues on climate-of-opinion perceptions.
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Zerback, T., T. Koch, and B. Krämer
Affiliation (1st Author)Department of Communication Science and Media Research, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, MunichDepartment of Communication Science and Media Research, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, MunichsssDepartment of Communication Science and Media Research, Ludwig-Max
Section or WGMediated Communication, Public Opinion and Society Section
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodeMCPS1a
Slot Code (Keyword)MCPS1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleMedia Social Activism and Protest
Submission ID5426

Media coverage contains a wide range of cues to what other people think or do and therefore also serve as an important source of climate-of-opinion perceptions. From a theoretical point of view we distinguish explicit cues to the climate-of-opinion, which refer to content that directly describes opinion distributions in society (e.g. polls), and implicit cues, lacking a direct reference (e.g. article slant). Whereas explicit cues influence climate-of-opinion judgments through learning processes (e.g. a recipient learns about opinion distributions in society by reading about poll results) (Sonck & Loosveldt, 2010), implicit cues trigger judgments indirectly. The “persuasive press inference” (Gunther, 1998) e.g. assumes that recipients presume effects of tendentious reports on other people and that they judge the current climate-of-opinion according to the assumed persuasive effect. The submission at hand examines how explicit and implicit cues interact in process of climate-of-opinion judgments. We conducted an experimental study (n=1.351) using a newspaper report on the extension of an express railway in Cologne (Germany) as a stimulus. The experiment was based on a 3x4 design with the “tendency of poll information” (explicit climate-of-opinion cue) and the “tendency of arguments” (implicit climate-of-opinion cue) as experimental factors. The tendency of poll information was varied on three levels: The article either contained a survey showing either a clear (26% in support, 74% opposed) or a narrow (48% in support, 52% opposed) opposition of Cologne’s citizens to the railway extension. No survey information was given in the control condition. The tendency of argumentation was varied on four levels: It was either in favor of (two positive arguments: easing of heavy traffic, positive effect on the environment) or against (two negative arguments: relocation of inhabitants, costs for the city) the railway extension. In addition, another group received ambivalent arguments (positive and negative), whereas no arguments were presented to the control group. After reading the article respondents had to answer questions about their evaluation of the current and future climate of opinion, give their personal opinion on the subject, and also had to assess personal uncertainty in their judgments. Our analysis reveals four central results: Firstly, while survey results strongly affect assessments of the current and future climate of opinion, the tendency of argumentation only influences these assessments when no survey information is available. Arguments therefore seem to substitute survey information in certain situations.Secondly, the tendency of argumentation produces a significant indirect effect, as it strongly affects personal opinions (persuasive effect), which in turn influence climate-of-opinion judgments (looking-glass effect). Thirdly, the strong direct effect of survey results on judgments about public opinion weakens, if participants estimate the future climate of opinion. In contrast the looking-glass effect described above increases. Hence, participants also seem to consider the survey data’s accuracy of fit when judging climate-of-opinion.Fourthly, missing or ambivalent cues to public opinion cause uncertainty on the part of participants. Uncertainty in climate-of-opinion-judgments increases, if poll data is missing or if participants assess the future climate-of-opinion.   References Gunther, A. C. (1998). The persuasive press inference: Effects of mass media on perceived public opinion. Communication Research, 25(5), 486–504. Sonck, N., & Loosveldt, G. (2010). Impact of poll results on personal opinions and perceptions of collective opinion. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 22(2), 230–255.

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