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Selective exposure in different political information environments - how media fragmentation and polarization shape congruent news use


Steppat, Desiree; Castro Herrero, Laia; Esser, Frank (2022). Selective exposure in different political information environments - how media fragmentation and polarization shape congruent news use. European Journal of Communication, 37(1):82-102.

Abstract

Previous research posits that individual predispositions play an essential role in explaining patterns of selective exposure to political information. Yet the contextual factors in the political information environment have received far less attention. Using a cross-national and quasi-experimental design, this article is one of the first to investigate how political information environments shape selective exposure. We rely on a unique two-wave online survey quasi-experiment in five countries (Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Poland and the United States) with 4349 participants to test the propositions that (a) the level of polarization and fragmentation in information environments and (b) the type of media source used affect selective exposure. Our results reveal that selective exposure is slightly more frequent among regular social media users but is less common among users of TV, radio and newspapers; crucially, it is more common in information environments that are highly fragmented and polarized. Nevertheless, news users from less fragmented-polarized media landscapes show one surprising yet intriguing behaviour: in a quasi-experimentally manipulated setting with more opportunities to self-select than they may be accustomed to, their coping strategy is to pick larger amounts of congruent news stories. All our findings imply that contextual factors play a crucial role in moderating individuals’ tendency to select information that aligns with their political views.

Abstract

Previous research posits that individual predispositions play an essential role in explaining patterns of selective exposure to political information. Yet the contextual factors in the political information environment have received far less attention. Using a cross-national and quasi-experimental design, this article is one of the first to investigate how political information environments shape selective exposure. We rely on a unique two-wave online survey quasi-experiment in five countries (Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Poland and the United States) with 4349 participants to test the propositions that (a) the level of polarization and fragmentation in information environments and (b) the type of media source used affect selective exposure. Our results reveal that selective exposure is slightly more frequent among regular social media users but is less common among users of TV, radio and newspapers; crucially, it is more common in information environments that are highly fragmented and polarized. Nevertheless, news users from less fragmented-polarized media landscapes show one surprising yet intriguing behaviour: in a quasi-experimentally manipulated setting with more opportunities to self-select than they may be accustomed to, their coping strategy is to pick larger amounts of congruent news stories. All our findings imply that contextual factors play a crucial role in moderating individuals’ tendency to select information that aligns with their political views.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Language and Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords:International comparison, media fragmentation, media polarization, news, political information environment, selective exposure
Language:English
Date:1 February 2022
Deposited On:26 Aug 2021 19:58
Last Modified:26 Mar 2024 02:37
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0267-3231
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/02673231211012141
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)