Post-Grant Reports


How Media Bias Subsidizes Political Learning

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Broadcast and Video Studies | Political Science | Political Theory | Social Influence and Political Communication


The goals of this project (along with a simultaneous Student Summer Collaborative Research Grant) were to complete data collection, analysis, and initial drafting of an academic article suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly outlet. In my application I stated that successful completion of this project would result in my presenting the research at a professional conference and with submission of a polished manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal. While events prevented me from presenting at a professional conference, I am happy to report that the project culminated in the drafting and acceptance of an empirical chapter titled, “The Rise of Cable News,” in the Handbook on the Security of Democracy (forthcoming, Edward Elgar Publishing), a peer-reviewed collection exploring a variety of non-traditional threats to the security of democratic systems.

The project extended my ongoing research agenda on the political consequences of media bias, with particular attention on how the public learns new information. In this chapter, I articulate a theory of news bias as a cognitive subsidy, one that lowers information costs and facilitates belief formation and the certainty with which beliefs are held. The theory is supported by experimental evidence from a nationally representative survey showing that a pattern of congenial bias facilitates persuasion and learning. The empirical work provides an important contribution to ongoing literatures attempting to understand the political consequences of our rapidly changing information environment. While initially focused on the psychology of persuasion, the project ended up emphasizing the ways in which the persuasive character of biased news media can threaten democratic institutions and undermine meaningful democratic governance.


This research was conducted both as part of a Linfield College Faculty Development Grant and as part of a Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant in 2018, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

The student collaborator was Amelia Warnock.

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