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Effects of Ideologies and Values on Media Choices:
An Examination of Consumers of Conservative Media
Tien-Tsung Lee, PhD
Edward R. Murrow School of Communication
Washington State University
P.O. Box 642520
Pullman, WA 99164-2121
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Paper submitted to the CT&M Division
2005 AEJMC Annual Conference
for consideration for presentation
Effects of Ideologies and Values on Media Choices:
An Examination of Consumers of Conservative Media
The increasing popularity of conservative media such as Fox News
suggests that many consumers choose news sources that reflect their
political views. Utilizing Uses & Gratifications and Hostile Media
Perceptions as the theoretical framework, and employing alternative
measures, this study is an in-depth analysis of audiences' ideologies
and values. It examines whether and how ideologies and values
influence audiences' media choices and political behavior. Findings
suggest that consumers of conservative media tend to be right-wing
authoritarian and religious fundamentalist, and subscribe to a
"Strict Father" type of ideology.
Effects of Ideologies and Values on Media Choices:
An Examination of Consumers of Conservative Media
The increasing prominence of Fox News in the past few years has
triggered some discussions in popular press (Greppi, 2003; Romano,
2003). A few journalists have argued that many consumers choose this
outlet of political information, despite its "fair and balanced"
claim, because of its conservative and partisan nature. Speculations
have also been made that conservative news outlets may further divide
the citizens of this country (Cook, 2004; Samuelson, 2004; Shaw, 2004).
It may be somewhat shocking to journalists that a large number of
consumers prefer politicized reporting instead of news services that
strive to be objective and neutral. However, this is no surprise to
media scholars. For years, Uses & Gratifications and Hostile Media
researchers have demonstrated that audience characteristics influence
their choices of media as well as their evaluations of media content
(Kay & Johnson, 2002; Gunther, 1992; Gunther & Chia, 2001;
Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Perloff, 1989; Rubin, 1981).
A new development regarding Fox News could trigger even more
curiosity and discussions among observers. A survey reports that Fox
News viewers are much more likely to have misperceptions regarding
the War in Iraq than consumers of other news media (Program on
International Policy Attitudes, 2003). Does this mean that the
ideologies and partisanships of audiences may affect their political
knowledge as well as their choices of media?
The present research is an exploratory study that investigates the
effects of a large number of ideological and value variables on media
choices. Specifically, a lengthy survey is used, which includes
detailed measures of various dimensions of political ideologies and
values. Predictors of conservative media consumption are identified
and compared. Given the increasing influence of conservative media
during an administration known for policies reflecting strong
ideologies, knowledge generated by this study is both crucial and timely.
Motives and Effects of Media Choices
Political communication literature has reported that the consumption
of certain media could lead to political alienation (Capella &
Jamieson, 1997; Crotty & Jacobson, 1980; Robinson, 1976; O'Keefe &
Mendelsohn, 1978). However, conflicting results have been reported,
such as the positive effects of newspaper reliance (Bowen, Stamm, &
Clark, 2000; Wilkins, 2000). Furthermore, cultivation research has
reported that heavy TV viewing contributes to the perception of a
mean and fearful world (Gerbner, Gross, Jackson-Beech, Jeffries-Fox,
and Signorielli, 1978; Gerbner, 1998). These studies suggest that
exposure to different media may produce various effects.
Uses and Gratifications researchers are interested in why people use
particular media, and have identified psychological and social
motives such as a need for information, development of personal
identity, social interaction, and entertainment (Blumler & Katz,
1974; Rubin, 1983; Rubin & Perse, 1987). Vincent and Basil summarized
this research approach by stating: "audiences differ in the
gratifications they are seeking from the mass media, and these
orientations may be related to certain social conditions and
functions or personality dispositions and abilities" (1997, p. 380).
A perfect example of this argument is a study by Slater (2003), which
reports that sensation seeking, aggression, and alienation from peers
predict the use of media with violent content by adolescents.
Insights from the Uses and Gratifications perspective suggest that
audiences select media that fulfill certain needs. Furthermore, media
choices could in turn reinforces certain characteristics or
orientations. For instance, a study by Holbert, Kwak, and Shah (2003)
demonstrates that audiences' environmental concerns predict what type
of television programs they watch, and how such media consumption may
further affect their environmental attitudes and behaviors.
Consumption of Conservative Media
Communication scholars have studied certain media known for their
conservative politics. For example, political talk radio has been
found to be overwhelmingly negative and conservative, and does not
improve audiences' political knowledge (Bennett, 2001; Hollander,
1996; Moy, Pfau, & Kahlor, 1999). On the other hand, Lee (2004) has
argued that conservative news sources are positively linked to
audiences' political efficacy, and such sources are negatively
associated with political cynicism.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center (2004) suggests that
audiences' political ideologies and partisanships are a factor behind
their media choices. Specifically, the Fox News channel has attracted
a large number of conservatives and Republicans. However, it would be
overly simplified to argue that Fox News appeals to Republicans and
conservatives only because this outlet reflects these audiences'
partisan views. According to the same Pew survey, Fox News also
attracts a sizable number of Democrats and Independents. One possible
explanation for this puzzle is the problems with self-reported
liberal-conservative positions and party affiliations. Political
scientists have discussed the complex nature of party affiliations
and the limited predictive power of the one-dimensional
liberal-to-conservative scale in U.S. politics (Flanigan & Zingale,
1998; Maddox & Lilie, 1984).
A recent survey by PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes,
2003) has raised more questions about the characteristics of Fox News
viewers. Reportedly, Fox News audiences were more likely than
consumers of other news sources to mistakenly believe in the
following statements: "evidences of links between Iraq and al Qaeda
have been found," "weapons of mass destruction have been found in
Iraq," and "world public opinion favored the U.S. going to war in
Iraq." Eighty percept of Fox News viewers had one or more of the
three misperceptions, while only 23% of PBS/NPR consumers made the
same mistake. The percentages of mistaken viewers of ABC (61%), CBS
(71%), NBC (55%), and CNN (55%) were in between.
The present author has not been able to locate any systematic
studies on the content of Fox News, especially its coverage of the
Iraq War. Therefore, no conclusion can be drawn between possible
relationships between news content and the misperceptions among Fox
News viewers. However, insights from the communication literature
reviewed earlier suggest that Fox News users may be willing to
believe the arguments made by the Bush administration regarding the
reasons for going to war, even though such arguments have not been
supported by conclusive evidence. Therefore, why these viewers were
so easily persuadable deserves some investigation. The present author
argues that certain predispositions of Fox News viewers – namely
their political ideologies and values – may have contributed to their
misperceptions reported in the PIPA survey. These potential causes
or factors are reviewed in the next section.
Political Ideologies and Values
Terms such as liberal and conservative are common in U.S. politics
and poplar press. However, scholars have pointed out that a
one-dimensional measure of political ideologies is inadequate. Some
believe that a significant portion of the population does not have
the ability to comprehend issues ideologically. Others argue that
there should be two dimensions (social versus economic, or personal
liberties versus free market) of ideologies rather than one. Also,
both major parties encompass members with ideologies crossing
traditional party lines (Flanigan & Zingale, 1998; Maddox & Lilie
1984). For instance, members of labor unions – which are
traditionally liberal and Democratic – may oppose same sex marriage
due to their religious beliefs, while some Republicans may oppose
bans on same-sex unions because they believe in a limited government.
All these arguments and confusions suggest a need for alternative
measures of citizens' ideologies. Lakoff (1996) has proposed two
helpful models to understand liberals and conservatives.
Using a family structure metaphor, Lakoff (1996) argues that
conservatives subscribe to a "Strict Father" mentality, while
liberals have a "Nuturant Parent" worldview. The former promotes
"self-discipline, responsibility, and self-reliance." It also
advocates a "tough love" reward-and-punishment system based on
obedience to "legitimate authorities" and tradition-based morality
(p. 163). On the other hand, the "Nuturant Parent" model considers
the following items moral and desirable: "empathetic behavior,"
"promoting fairness," and helping/protecting those who cannot
help/protect themselves (p. 165).
These two "moral" systems or models are in fact ideologies. As
defined by Hinich and Munger (1997), an ideology as:
an internally consistent set of propositions that make both proscriptive
and prescriptive demands on human behavior. All ideologies have
implications for (a) what is ethically good, and (therefore) what is bad; (b)
how society's resources should be distributed; and (c) where power
appropriately resides (p. 11).
The definitions above facilitate a better understanding of the
differences between liberals and conservatives, and explain their
issue positions. For instance, liberals (who tend to be Democrats)
support welfare and affirmative action because they believe such
polices help the disadvantaged and therefore promote fairness. On the
other hand, conservatives (who tend to be Republicans) oppose such
policies because they believe these approaches are against the
principle of self-reliance (Lakoff, 1996). In addition, conservatives
dislike social developments defying traditional gender roles and
hierarchies, such as gay rights and the feminist movement (Lakoff, 1996).
While the two models proposed by Lakoff provide a better
understanding of the differences between ideologies commonly known as
liberal and conservative, he did not offer any quantitative measures
of ideologies. Fortunately, Altemeyer (1996) has generated a
Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) scale that would operationalize
Lakoff's parental models. Right-wing authoritarians, according to
Altemeyer, are likely to: 1) submit to established authorities; 2)
exhibit aggression or aggressiveness (toward various objects or
individuals) that is perceived to be sanctioned by authorities; and
3) adhere to certain conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by
authorities. The RWA index is based on 30 items (measured on a –4 to
+4 scale), including such statements as "The real keys to the 'good
life' are obedience, discipline, and sticking to the straight and
narrow," "Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash
the perversions eating away at our moral fiber and traditional
beliefs," "Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do
what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness
that are running us," and "There is no 'ONE right way' to live life;
everybody has to create their own way" (Altemeyer, 1996, p. 13).
These examples suggest that the RWA is an ideal measure of the
"Strict Father" versus "Nuturant Parent" ideologies.
It is common knowledge that, in U.S. politics, political
conservatism has a strong religious overtone (Brown, 2002). For
instance, before the 2000 election, George W. Bush visited Bob Jones
University, a Christian institution that bans interracial dating
among its students (Keen, 2000). Also, since taking office Bush has
broken the wall between church and state, allowing religious
charities to receive federal funding (Leonard, 2002). These examples
suggest that, to understand U.S. politics, especially conservative
politicians and policies, one should consider religion in addition to
Altemeyer (1996) has also developed a Religious Fundamentalism Scale
(RFS). The RFS consists of 20 items (also measured on a –4 to +4
scale), including such statements as "God has given mankind a
complete, unfailing guide to happiness and salvation, which must be
totally followed," "God will punish most severely those who abandon
his true religion," and "No single book of religious writing contains
all the important truths about life."
Altemeyer (1996) himself has reported a high correlation (r = .68)
between the RWA and RFS, and a high level of reliability of the RFS
(alpha = .92). According to Antoun (2001) and Armstrong (2001),
religious fundamentalists believe that their holy scripts are
inerrant, and therefore should be interpreted literally and obeyed
without question. Those who disagree with such strict views should be
defeated, punished, and/or converted. Furthermore, fundamentalists
prefer authority and tradition, which give them a sense of comfort
and security (Antoun, 2001; Armstrong, 2001). If God is perceived as
a heavenly father to be feared and completely obeyed, this
interpretation certainly coincides with the "Strict Father" ideology
President Bush and his supporters appear to be subscribers of the
"Strict Father" ideology, and many of Bush's policies seem to reflect
items on the RWA and RFS scales. For example, "moral values" in
Bush's policies and campaign messages, such as the ban on same-sex
marriage, reportedly pleased many conservative Christians and
consequently contributed to his election victory in 2004 (Dao, 2004;
To better understand U.S. politics and media, one should study values
in addition to ideologies. While an ideology represents a general
worldview, a value is a more specific construct. A value is basically
a guiding principle or an enduring perspective that could affect
one's attitudes toward specific issues and situations, and
consequently behaviors. Some values can also be conceptualized as a
personality trait (Kahle, 1983; Kahle & Chiagouris, 1997; Mitchell,
1983; Rokeach, 1968, 1973).
Shorter lists of values exist in various academic disciplines such as
marketing (e.g. Kahle, 1983; Kahle & Chiagouris, 1997). The most
comprehensive list of values was developed by Rokeach (1968, 1973).
He identified a total of 36 human values, which were divided into two
groups: 1) "instrumental" (modes of conducts reflecting socially
desirable behaviors); and 2) "terminal" (end states of existence
reflecting behavioral outcomes). Example of instrumental values
include "ambitious," "broadminded," "honest," and "helpful." Examples
of terminal values include "a comfortable life," "an exciting life,"
"a world at peace," and "salvation." The present author theorizes
that many of these values can be seen as components of the "Strict
Father" versus "Nuturant Parent" ideologies. They are also likely
elements or predictors of RWA and RFS constructs.
Based on the literature reviewed above, it can be theorized that
consumers of conservative media tend to harbor views that are
traditionally identified as conservative and Republican. However,
alternative scales, namely RWA and RFS, should be better measures of
such ideologies. In addition, citizens with high RWA and RFS scores
are likely to support Bush due to their similar political views.
Next, the "Strict Father" ideology should be reflected by certain
human values. Therefore, the following hypotheses are generated:
H1: Audiences with higher Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) and
Religious Fundamentalism Scale (RFS) scores are more likely to consume
conservative media than those who are placed lower on these scales.
H2: RWA and RFS stands are better predictors of conservative media
consumption than self-reported liberal-conservative labels and
H3: High RWA and RFS scores predict one's support for Bush.
H4: Human values reflecting the "Strict Father" ideology are positively
associated with RWA and RFS.
A survey was conducted at a large public university on the west
coast. A 12-page survey was offered for extra credit to students in
several communication classes during the spring semester and summer
session in 2004. A total of 119 students participated, with 62 women
(52.5%), 56 men (47.5%), and one missing case. Ages ranged from 19 to
25, with a mean of 21.57. This sample included more seniors (35.6%)
and juniors (37.3%) than sophomores (23.7%) and freshmen (2.5%). The
majority of participants (over 95%) were Caucasian.
In addition to typical demographic questions such as age and sex,
the questionnaire also contains a one-dimensional
liberal-conservative scale (1 = very liberal to 7 = very
conservative), and a scale of partisanship. This 1-to-9-point measure
positions including a strong supporter/member of the Republican
Party, an independent leaning toward either party, independent
leaning toward neither party, and a strong support of the Democratic
Party. Members other parties and apolitical respondents were excluded
from analysis. Because this survey was conducted in 2002, one's
support for Bush was measured by the following question: If the U.S.
presidential election was held today and you were eligible to vote,
whom would you most likely vote for? Choices included George W. Bush,
John Kerry, none, and other. The four choices were re-coded in two
different ways for analyses, including Bush versus non-Bush voters,
and Bush versus Kerry (with the other two options coded as missing).
This survey also consists of a number of questions related to media
and political ideologies adopted from existing studies (Altemeyer,
1996; Lee, 2004; Moy & Pfau, 2000; National Election Studies, n.d.;
Pinkleton and Austin, 2001; Pinkleton, Austin, & Fortman, 1998).
Specifically, in addition to typical demographic questions, there are
items on how important one considers each of the 19 information
sources for learning about the government and politics. These sources
include network television news, Fox News and/or the O'Reilly Factor,
CNN or MSNBC, local TV news, PBS/NPR, news interview shows like Larry
King, national newspapers, local newspapers, religious leaders like
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, political talk radio, religious
TV/cable/radio, news magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and the
Internet. Cronbach's alpha of these source variables is .85. In
addition, there are 9 items measuring the frequency of exposure (0 to
7 days in a typical week) to various types of media. Their alpha is .66.
A factor analysis with varimax rotation was performed on the 19
source variables. Next, a scale reliability analysis was performed on
several groups of variables that appeared to load on the same factor.
Finally, three additive indices of media importance were created: 1)
conservative media (alpha = .76; the sum of 5 items including Fox
News, religious leaders, ministers/pastors of one's own church, talk
radio, and religious TV/cable/radio); 2) TV news (alpha = .71; the
sum of 5 items including network TV news, CNN/MSNBC, local TV news,
news interview shows, and morning TV news shows such as Good Morning
America); and 3) in-depth media (alpha = .66; the sum of 3 items
including PBS/NPR, national newspapers, and news magazines). The
importance of the above sources is the operationalization of media
consumption in the present study.
The human value items were adapted from the studies by Rokeach (1968,
1973). These variables were divided into two groups (following
Rokeach's original structure) and were measured on a scale from 1
(extremely important) to 9 (less important). Because students may be
tempted to mark 1 on most or all items, they were also asked to rank
the importance of each variable (1 being most important and 2 being
second most important). Each item's importance and ranking were
multiplied. Therefore, a lower number would mean a higher level of
importance. A factor analysis and then a scale reliability procedure
similar to the ones reported above were performed on all 40 values
items. There are 40 instead of 36 items because values such as
"traditional," "self-controlled," and "thrift" are added to encompass
the "Strict Father" ideology.
Six additive value indices were created as a result: 1)
peace/beauty/equality (alpha = .74); 2) ability (alpha = .70;
including a sense of accomplishment, wisdom/a mature understanding of
life, ambitious, capable, and courageous); 3) intellectual (alpha =
.77; including broadminded, imaginative, independent, innovative,
intellectual, and logical); 4) security (alpha = .75; including a
comfortable life, family security, national security, personal
safety, and pleasure); 5) harmony (alpha = .82; including inner
harmony, mature love, true friendship, cheerful, forgiving, helpful,
and loving); and 6) moral/order/tradition (alpha = .76; including
salvation, self-respect, social recognition, clean, honest, obedient,
polite, responsible, self-controlled, thrift, and traditional).
The RWA and RFS items were copied from Altemeyer's book (1996), and
each scale produced a very high alpha (RWA = .89; RFS = .92).
Altemeyer re-coded his scale from –4 to +4 into 1 to 9 without a
clear explanation for this change. Therefore, the present study used
the sums of the original scales to form the two indices. Logistic and
hierarchical multiple regressions, bivariate correlations, and
t-tests were chosen for statistical analyses in this study. Existing
literature suggests the need for controlling sex and media bias
perception. Researchers have reported differences between women and
men in political behavior (Wilkins, 1995, 2000). Also,
self-identified conservatives and Republicans tend to believe the
media have a liberal bias (Lee, 2005). Therefore, these variables are
controlled in the multiple regression analysis.
Authoritarians, Fundamentalists, and Conservative Media
The first hypothesis states that higher RWA and RFS scores predict
the consumption of conservative media. The second hypothesis poses
that RWA and RFS are better predictors of such consumption than
one-dimensional liberal-conservative labels and party affiliations.
Both H1 and H2 are supported. As shown in Table 1, the
liberal-conservative scale and partisanship yield insignificant ß's
(p > .05), while both RWA (ß = .38, p < .01) and RFS (ß = .24, p <
.05) were significant. Therefore, RWA and RFS are better predictors
of conservative media importance than liberal-conservative and party
For comparison purposes, regression models examining predictors of
other media (TV news and in-depth) are reported in Table 1 as well.
Figures in these models show that liberal-conservative labels and
partisanship are not predictors of the reliance or importance of
other media. These data also suggest that some right-wing
authoritarians may consider in-depth media (such as news magazines
and national newspapers) important sources for their learning about
the government and politics.
Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, and Support for the President
The third hypothesis theorizes that consumers with higher Right-Wing
Authoritarian (RWA) and Religious Fundamentalism Scale (RFS) scores
are more likely to support Bush. A t-test (t = 3.85, p < .001) shows
that Bush supporters have higher RWA scores (mean = -12.68, s.d. =
29.61) than Kerry supporters (mean =
-35.31, s.d. = 27.36). Another t-test (t = 3.47, p < .01) indicates
that Bush supporters score higher on the RFS scale (mean = -6.55,
s.d. = 32.37) than Kerry supporters (mean = -27.15, s.d. = 25.79).
When respondents are divided into Bush supporters versus
non-supports, two additional t-tests yield similar results. One
t-test (t = 3.42, p < .01) reveals that Bush supporters have higher
RWA scores (same mean and s.d. as above) than non-supporters (mean =
-31.8, s.d. = 27.74). Another t-test (t = 3.13p < .01) reports that
Bush supporters also score higher on the RFS scale (same mean and
s.d. as above) than non-supporters (mean = -23.83, s.d. = 25.68).
Therefore, H3 is supported by t-tests.
However, when logistic regression is used and other variables are
taken into consideration, the same hypothesis is not supported. The
dependent variable is voting for Bush (=1) or not (= 0), and seven
independent variables are included in this regression analysis: sex
(male), liberal-conservative, party affiliation
(Republican–Democrat), conservative media, TV news, in-depth media,
RWA, and RFS. Effects of these variables on one's voting for Bush are
compared. The results summarized in Table 2 suggest that only
liberal-conservative labels and partisanship are significant
predictors. Self-identified conservatives and Republicans are more
likely to vote for Bush. Right-wing authoritarianism, religious
fundamentalism, or consumption of various media are not associated
with support for Bush when all variables are taken into consideration
at the same time. Therefore, this logistic regression model does not
support H3. As a result, H3 is only partially supported.
Human Values, Right-Wing Authoritarianism, and Religious Fundamentalism
Finally, two multiple-regressions are run, using RWA and RFS as
dependent variables, and the six human value items reported in the
method session as independent variables. Sex (male), the
liberal-conservative scale, and partisanship are controlled. Figures
in Table 3 indicate that liberal-conservative labels (ß = .28, p <
.05) and moral/order/tradition (ß = -.48, p < .001) are the only
significant predictors of Right-Wing Authoritarianism. Those who
identify themselves as conservative, and who consider
moral/order/tradition values more important, tend to be right-wing
Table 3 also shows that RFS's significant predictors include
intellectual (ß = .44, p < .001) and moral/order/tradition (ß = -.42,
p < .01). The more religious fundamentalist consumers are, the less
they consider being intellectual important, and the more they
consider moral/order/tradition values important. These findings
support H4. Specifically, the statistically significant variable of
moral/order/tradition supports the argument that the RWA and RFS
scales operationalize the "Strict Father" ideology. Also, this set of
findings suggests that religious fundamentalists are less likely to
be critical thinkers due to the fact that they do not consider being
intellectual important. In addition, because RWA and RFS have a
significant correction (r = .53, p < .001), intellectualism may be
indirectly linked to RWA.
<<Insert Tables 1-3 About Here>>
Conclusion and Discussion
The findings of this study have established connections between
Right-Wing Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, a "Strict
Father" ideology, consumption of conservative media, and support for
President George W. Bush. These results also suggest that RWA and RFS
are better measures of ideologies and policy preferences than the
one-dimensional liberal-conservative scale and party affiliations.
Therefore, the present study has made a contribution in terms of both
knowledge and methodology.
Can the findings of this study help explain why Fox News viewers are
more likely to have misperceptions regarding the War in Iraq than
consumers of other media? Altemeyer (1996) has reported that
Right-Wing Authoritarians tend to obey established authorities
without questioning. Because consumers of conservative media tend to
be Right-Wing Authoritarian, as suggested by present findings, they
are unlikely to challenge what established authorities tell them. In
other words, they are expected to support Bush's decisions and claims
regarding the War in Iraq.
In addition, their religious fundamentalist mentality may have
contributed to a sense of superiority over Muslims. This argument can
be illustrated by a quote of a U.S. general, William G. Boykin.
Describing his battle with a Muslim warlord, he said "I knew that my
God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and
his was an idol" (Zakaria, 2003). The same news story argues that
this religious view is in line with many in the Bush administration.
If Bush supporters believe that going to war in Iraq has God's
blessing, it is understandable that these individuals would
mistakenly believe this action is supported by public opinion all
over the world.
Hostile Media studies have demonstrated that regardless of what is
reported in the news, audiences tend to see what they want to believe
due to their ego-involvement (Gunther, 1992; Gunther & Chia, 2001;
Lee, 2005; Perloff, 1989). Therefore, even if Fox News's coverage of
the Iraq War were truly "fair and balanced," their viewers would
still support the arguments supplied by the Bush administration for
going to war. On the other hand, as the Uses and Gratifications
perspective would predict, it is likely that Fox News attracts Bush
supporters because its coverage does reflect the ideologies of the
This exploratory study is likely the first to investigate –
especially at such depth and with alternative measures – the
connections between audiences' political ideologies, consumptions of
conservative media, and their support for political policies. Even
though there are many possible arguments against using student
samples, there are few supportive ones. First, college students are
more likely to have the ability to handle abstract constructs such as
ideologies and human values. Second, they are more likely to have the
patience to carefully answer a large number of questions that require
thinking. Third, instead of making generalizations to the general
population, this type of study is useful for finding relationships
This research can serve as a foundation for future studies using
non-student samples. Even though it would be difficult to persuade
non-student participants to fill out a lengthy survey such as this,
it is possible with sufficient incentives. With non-student samples,
researchers can investigate effects of additional variables such as
age, race, education and income. Additionally, findings can be more
generalizable to the U.S. population.
In conclusion, the present study has applied two useful communication
theories or perspectives in an investigation of a current phenomenon,
namely the increasing popularity – and therefore influence – of
conservative media. A better understanding of the characteristics of
their audiences has been generated. In addition, insights from this
study also help explain why Fox News viewers were found to have more
misperceptions on issues related to the War in Iraq than audiences of
other media. Fox News and other conservative media will likely remain
a part of the media landscape. Consequently, political communication
researchers are encouraged to continue studying their audiences.
Multiple Regression Analyses of Media Consumption
Dependent Conservative TV News In-Depth Media
ß ß ß
Sex (male) .01 -.24* -.27*
Liberal- -.10 -.10 -.18
Party affiliations -.14 .19 .13
You can depend on .16 .09 -.01
most news reporters
to get a story right
Most news media .08 .15 .06
RAW .38** .28 .29*
RFS .24* .03 -.10
R-square .40 .18 .13
N 95 95 95
Note. *p < .05; **p < .01
Logistic Regression Analyses of Voting for Bush
B S.E. Wald Exp(B)
Sex (male) .23 .84 .08 1.26
Liberal- 1.58* .62 6.38 4.88
Party affiliations -1.06** .32 11.05 .35
Conservative Media .09 .09 1.15 1.10
TV News .17 .11 2.35 1.19
In-depth Media -.03 .14 .04 .97
RWA -.01 .02 .34 .99
RFS -.00 .01 .07 1.00
Note. *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p <.001; N = 97; Chi-sq. (df = 8) = 73.94***;
-2 Log likelihood = 49.07; Cox & Snell R-sq. = .53; Nagelkerke R-sq. = .74
Multiple Regression Analyses of Right-Wing Authoritarianism
and Religious Fundamentalism
Dependent Right-Wing Religious
Variables Authoritarianism Fundamentalism
Sex (male) .12 -.10
Liberal/ .28* .15
Party affiliations -.15 -.05
Peace/beauty/equality .04 .06
Ability .08 -.08
Intellectual .15 .44***
Security -.02 .05
Harmony .01 -.19
Moral/order/tradition -.48*** -.42**
R-square .44 .32
N 96 96
Note. *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001
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