- Shot by the Messenger: An Experimental Examination of the Effects of Party
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- by Baum, Matthew; Groeling, Tim
- Research has shown that messages of intra-party harmony tend to be ignored by the news media,
while internal disputes, especially within the governing party, generally receive prominent
coverage. We examine how messages of party conflict and cooperation affect public opinion
regarding national security, as well as whether and how the reputations of media outlets matter.
We develop a typology of partisan messages in the news, determining their likely effects based on
the characteristics of the speaker, listener, news outlet, and message content. We hypothesize that
criticism of the president by his fellow partisan elites should be exceptionally damaging (especially
on a “conservative” media outlet), while opposition party praise of the president should be the
most helpful (especially on a “liberal” outlet). We test our hypotheses through an experiment and a
national survey on attitudes regarding the Iraq War. The results show that credible communication
(i.e., “costly” rhetoric harmful to a party) is more influential than “cheap talk” in moving public
opinion. Ironically, news media outlets perceived as ideologically “hostile” can actually enhance
the credibility of certain messages relative to “friendly” news sources.
- Publication Type: WCFIA Working Paper
- Published Date: January 2007
- Field of Interest: Comparative Politics
- Baum, Matthew, and Tim Groeling. “Shot by the Messenger: An Experimental Examination of the Effects of Party Cues on Public Opinion Regarding National Security and War.” Working Paper 2008-0013, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, January 2007.