Fox News Viewers Were Paid to Switch to CNN for a Month & the Effect Is Encouraging
Some minds were actually changed ... sort of.
A recent study asked devoted Fox News viewers to switch to CNN for a month, paying them $15 an hour to watch up to seven hours of news a week in September 2020. There have been previous studies showing cable news—and specifically Fox News—can influence the way people vote. But David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, the political scientists behind this new study, wanted to see what impact news has not just on viewers’ votes but on their “beliefs, attitudes, or priorities.” As it turns out, that impact is pretty substantial.
During the month the study took place, the biggest news stories involved protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, including coverage of Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager who shot and killed or injured multiple people during the protests and was praised by a number of Fox News personalities.
Compared with a Fox News-watching control group, the viewers who switched networks were less likely to agree with statements like “It is an overreaction to go out and protest in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin” and “If Joe Biden is elected President, we’ll see many police get shot by Black Lives Matter activists.” They were also less likely to believe Democrats are happy when people shoot police officers, which is an actual thing Fox News tells its audience.
The CNN group also saw a shift in their perception of crime in America. Fox News is constantly telling its audience that there is more crime in big cities than there used to be and that walking through cities like New York or Portland, Oregon felt like a “war zone” at the height of Black Lives Matter protests. The people who switched to CNN for a month were less likely to believe those claims.
There were also stories that the Fox News control group was less likely to even have heard about at all, like when journalist Bob Woodward revealed that Donald Trump knew COVID-19 was far more deadly than he let on, much earlier than we knew, or that Trump did not meet with the family of Jacob Blake when he visited Kenosha.
Moreover, by the end of the month, the CNN viewers seemed to be more aware of Fox News’ bias, and were more likely to agree that “if Donald Trump did something bad, Fox News would not cover it.”
No one from the CNN group switched their political party affiliation and overall, they didn’t even report having a more favorable view of Joe Biden or Democrats. But these were Trump-loving Fox News devotees and in just one month—an incredibly short amount of time!—Broockman and Kalla believe that their experiment “found that watching CNN instead of Fox News had significant impacts on viewers’ beliefs, attitudes, and evaluations.”
“In other words, partisan media does not simply remind people of certain beliefs they already hold,” they write, “it leads viewers to learn about a biased set of facts, which appears to have consequences for their attitudes.”
(via: Bloomberg, The Guardian, image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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