The manifold effects of partisan media on viewers’ beliefs and attitudes: A field experiment with Fox News viewers
Partisan media impacts voting behavior, yet what changes in viewers’ beliefs or attitudes may underlie these impacts is poorly understood. We recruited a sample of regular Fox News viewers using data on actual TV viewership from a media company, and incentivized them to watch CNN instead for a month using real-time viewership quizzes. Despite regular Fox viewers being largely strong partisans, we found manifold effects of changing the slant of their media diets on their factual beliefs, attitudes, perceptions of issues’ importance, and overall political views. We show that these effects stem in part from a bias we call partisan coverage filtering, wherein partisan outlets selectively report information, leading viewers to learn a biased set of facts. Consistent with this, treated participants concluded that Fox concealed negative information about President Trump. Partisan media does not only present its side an electoral advantage—it may present a challenge for democratic accountability.