With Malice toward All? The Media and Public Confidence in Democratic Institutions

By Patricia Moy; Michael Pfau | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Design of the Studies

Only an interconnected data set of survey responses and media content allows one to move beyond analysis based on measures of media exposure or media message alone to consider the actual media content to which people have been exposed. Political scientists Arthur Miller, Edie Goldenberg, and Lutz Erbring ( 1979, p. 68)

This investigation is a difficult undertaking, and our approach differs from most past research in two basic respects. First, we examine the impact of multiple communication sources on public confidence in a variety of democratic institutions. Past research typically stressed one, or perhaps two, communication sources in isolation from others ( Miller, Goldenberg , & Erbring, 1979). This past line of research began in the 1970s, focusing primarily on the traditional news media, particularly newspapers and network television news.

However, today's media environment embodies a complex mosaic of communication sources, most of which have gone unexplored in terms of their impact on perceptions of confidence. Montague Kern, Marion Just, and Ann Crigler ( 1997) maintain that we are in the midst of "a sea change" in mass media use, in which traditional media -- including newspapers and network television news -- are declining in use and, by implication, in influence, while nontraditional outlets -- such as television magazines, television talk shows, political talk radio, and the World Wide Web -- are growing in use and influence. James Chesebro, and Dale Bertelsen call the implications of these changes "transformational" ( 1996, pp. 134-135).

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