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Selective news media exposure and political misperceptions have potentially troubling implications for democracy. In an online survey (N = 486) conducted in the context of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, we drew on a motivated reasoning framework to examine how rational and experiential engagement and need for closure were related to selective exposure and misperceptions. Because previous research has focused on conservative media and misperceptions that serve Republican causes, we also looked at how conservative and liberal media exposure were related to Republican‐ and Democratic‐serving misperceptions among the overall sample as well as respondents of each party. Rational engagement had positive relationships with media use and (surprisingly) selective exposure among Democrats. It also was negatively related with Republican‐serving misperceptions. Experiential engagement, on the other hand, had no relationships with media use but was positively related to Republican‐serving misperceptions. Need for closure was positively related to Republican‐serving misperceptions, but not after control variables were added. Finally, exposure to either kind of partisan media both discouraged misperceptions that served the opposing party and promoted misperceptions that served their own party, although the extent to which it did so appeared to vary depending on the partisanship of the media and of the audience. Implications of these findings for theory and policy are discussed.
Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2016
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