Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior

Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior

Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior

Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior

Synopsis

Convenient, entertaining, and provocative, talk radio today is unapologetically ideological. Focusing on Rush Limbaugh -- the medium's most influential talk show -- Rushed to Judgment systematically examines the politics of persuasion at play on our nation's radio airwaves and asks a series of important questions. Does listening to talk radio change the way people think about politics, or are listeners' attitudes a function of the self-selecting nature of the audience? Does talk radio enhance understanding of public issues or serve as a breeding ground for misunderstanding? Can talk radio serve as an agent of deliberative democracy, spurring Americans to open, public debate? Or will talk radio only aggravate the divisive partisanship many Americans decry in poll after poll? The time is ripe to evaluate the effects of a medium whose influence has yet to be fully reckoned with.

Excerpt

Chapter 1 reviewed the exhaustive literature in political communication that deals with persuasion, emphasizing media effects. a large body of research now points to the conclusion that media effects are more “fugitive” than minimal—meaning they are out there, just hard to find (e.g., Bartels 1993; Page, Shapiro, and Dempsey 1987; Dalton, Beck, and Huckfeldt 1998). the search has often been confounded by reliability and validity challenges. Not only should we raise a suspicious eyebrow toward self-reports of media exposure, because social desirability encourages survey respondents to inflate the attention they pay to political news (Weisberg, Bowen, and Krosnick 1989), but most studies have neglected (or have been unable) to examine the specific media content to which research subjects have been exposed, relying instead on measures of how often survey respondents watch television news, for example. Perhaps even more important than the striking loss of efficiency associated with the use of such error-laden measures, which may have accounted for many minimal-effects conclusions (Bartels 1993), is the strong possibility that media effects are often not observed in the aggregate, because partisan or ideological messages often counterbalance each other in the traditional mass-media universe. For instance, busi-

Parts of this chapter appear in “Talk Radio Turns the Tide? Political Talk Radio and Public Opinion” (Barker and Knight 2000). Used by permission.

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