Mainstream U.S. news media stand accused of bias against the 45th president, Donald Trump. The relentlessness and intensity of these accusations over the course of Trump’s presidency are unusual and make for an opportunity to study perceptions of news bias. During the experiment reported here, participants (N=315) were exposed to biased (pro- and anti-Trump) news stories that were attributed to either CNN, Breitbart, or remained unattributed to a news brand. After reading the stories, participants rated the stories for their relative slantedness in favor of, neutral, or against the president. Findings reveal that news users are sensitized to the president’s accusations of bias against CNN. For example, anti-Trump stories were rated as more slanted than pro-Trump stories when they were attributed to CNN. This was not the case when the same stories were attributed to Breitbart. Interestingly, unattributed biased news received the highest ratings for slantedness.
Kim, M.*, Hale, B.*, Grabe, M. E.*, & Bas. O.* (in press). Who is Responsible? The Impact of Emotional Personalization on Explaining the Origins of Social Problems. Atlantic Journal of Communication. doi:10.1080/15456870.2020.1752693 [pdf] *Denotes that authors made equal contributions
Personalization refers to the journalistic practice of including emotional case studies of ordinary people in news stories, increasing vividness and emotional charge of news and eliciting identification and empathy in news consumers. Previous research suggests that personalization of news stories increases collectivistic (compared with individualistic) causal attributions by the news audience. In response, an experiment was conducted with a week time delay between stimuli presentation and open-ended participant responses to examine the influence of news personalization on how news consumers attribute causes for social issues. Participant (N = 80) trait empathy was included as an additional factor. Findings show that participants with high trait empathy expressed a greater shift to collectivistic attribution after watching personalized news stories than participants with low trait empathy, suggesting that individual differences in trait empathy may be an important factor in how individuals construct their own under- standing of social problems.
Kim, M., & Lu, Y. (2020). Testing partisan selective exposure in a multidimensional choice context: Evidence from a conjoint experiment. Mass Communication & Society, 23(1), 107-127. doi:10.1080/15205436.2019.1636283 [pdf]
The methodological shortcomings characterizing previous experimental research on selective and cross-cutting exposure (e.g. focusing on the impact of a few experimental factors and providing a limited range of choice alternatives) amount to an incomplete description of news choice behavior. This study proposes an alternative method that addresses these shortcomings in testing partisan news selection in the current media environment. A conjoint experiment (N = 746), which simulates a popular mobile news platform (iOS news app), showed that while partisans preferred selecting news from pro-attitudinal sources, they also selected news from counter-attitudinal sources at least once in five times (20%). The tendency to engage in selective exposure was slightly stronger among strong partisans. Our findings indicate that the concerns over partisan selective exposure may not be an issue of “selection” but more of “access” to news sources with different political views. The implications for future research are discussed.
Kim, M. (2019). Parental influence on adolescent preference for television public affairs content: A South Korean panel study. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 96(2), 497-515. doi:10.1177/1077699018754910 [pdf]
In this study, I examined parental influence on the development of preference for television public affairs content as a component of political socialization that empowers adolescents to acquire information about politics and civic affairs. A pooled sample (N = 795) constructed from multiple survey waves (2011-2014) from the annual Korean Media Panel Study was used for the data analysis. The findings showed that mothers—not fathers—had an influence on adolescent preference for public affairs content regardless of their children’s gender. The study thus unmasked a gendered mechanism of parental influence on adolescent television habits.
Kim. M., & Kim, C. (2018). Personality-basis for partisan news media use: Openness to experience and consumption of liberal news media. Mass Communication & Society, 21(6), 814-833. doi:10.1080/15205436.2018.1506035 [pdf]
This study explores the link between Openness to Experience (one dimension of the Big Five personality traits) and attitude-challenging news media use (crosscutting exposure). Two distinctive behavioral tendencies of Openness (political affinity toward liberal ideals vs. tolerance to political differences) allow us to propose two equally possible, but mutually exclusive, hypotheses regarding the association between Openness and crosscutting exposure. Two American National Election Study surveys conducted during the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections were used to test the competing hypotheses. Across the two elections, a positive link between Openness and liberal news media use was found regardless of self-reported party identification. Openness promoted attitude-consistent news media use (selective exposure) among Democrats, whereas it encouraged crosscutting exposure among Republicans. Our findings suggest the distinction between “selective” and “crosscutting” exposure based on one’s party identification may mask the common foundation that influences exposure decisions to partisan news media
Kim, M. (2018). Neuroticism and information seeking surrounding the 2014 U.S. Ebola outbreak: Evidence from Internet panel study and Internet search trend data. Health & New Media Research, 2(2), 77-100. [pdf]
In the context of 2014 U.S. Ebola virus outbreak, this paper conducted two studies to investigate whether neuroticism, one dimension of the Big Five personality traits, is associated with health information seeking behavior. Study 1 examined the relationship between neuroticism and use of diverse mediated channels to seek information on the Ebola virus. Study 2 used Google Trends Service to show that the strength of the association between neuroticism and Internet search activity was dependent upon levels of media attention to the Ebola virus. These findings contribute to a better understanding of personality-based predictors of health information seeking behavior in the face of a global public health crisis.
Grabe, M. E., Kleemans, M., Bas, O., Myrick, J. G., & Kim, M. (2017). Putting a human face on cold-hard-face: Effects of personalizing social issues on perceptions of issue importance. International Journal of Communication. 11, 907-929. [pdf]
This study investigates the influence of personalization (moving testimony from ordinary citizens) on reception of news stories about social issues. The data (N = 80) from this mixed-design experiment, collected at two time points, offer evidence that personalized news stories evoked greater feelings of empathy toward and identification with people affected by social issues, which in turn increased perceived issue importance. Personalization effects persisted over time. Moreover, path analyses revealed gender differences in reactions to personalization. The findings imply that a major goal of journalism—to advance civic engagement with social issues—could be served by personalized story formats.
Kim, M., & Cao, X. (2016). The impact of exposure to media messages promoting government conspiracy theories on distrust in the government: Evidence from a two-stage randomized experiment. International Journal of Communication, 10, 3808-3827. [pdf]
Does exposure to videos promoting government conspiracy theories cultivate cynicism toward the government? The results of a randomized experiment suggest that exposure to a video promoting a government conspiracy theory increased belief in the conspiracy immediately after the exposure and two weeks later. It is even more important that the immediate increase in the belief translated into higher levels of distrust in the government two weeks later. Further analysis indicated that engagement with the video might have explained the observed effects of the video on the belief and the distrust. The findings suggest that media messages promoting government conspiracy theories may have the potential to induce long-lasting cynicism toward the government through engaging viewers in the messages and, therefore, increasing belief in the theories.