Sensationalism and sobriety differential media exposure and attitudes toward american courts


Journal Article

While a great deal of research has focused on understanding the foundations of public support for American courts, scant attention has been paid to the role of the media for such attitudes. Given the media's demonstrated ability to influence public opinion, this remains a substantial gap in the literature. In the present paper we examine how different types of media - sensationalist (i.e., political radio and cable news) or sober (i.e., newspapers and network news) - influence individuals' attitudes toward both the U.S. Supreme Court and courts at the state level. In line with our predictions, we find that sensationalist media exposure depresses both diffuse and specific support for American courts. Additionally, our results call into question the unconditional nature of the ubiquitous sophistication-approval relationship. We find that sophistication's positive effect on court attitudes is conditional on an individual's particular source of political information. © The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Johnston, CD; Bartels, BL

Published Date

  • February 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 74 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 260 - 285

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5331

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-362X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/poq/nfp096

Citation Source

  • Scopus