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How government-controlled media shifts policy attitudes through framing

Jennifer Pan, Zijie Shao and Yiqing Xu

Political Science Research and Methods, 2022, vol. 10, issue 2, 317-332

Abstract: Research shows that government-controlled media is an effective tool for authoritarian regimes to shape public opinion. Does government-controlled media remain effective when it is required to support changes in positions that autocrats take on issues? Existing theories do not provide a clear answer to this question, but we often observe authoritarian governments using government media to frame policies in new ways when significant changes in policy positions are required. By conducting an experiment that exposes respondents to government-controlled media—in the form of TV news segments—on issues where the regime substantially changed its policy positions, we find that by framing the same issue differently, government-controlled media moves respondents to adopt policy positions closer to the ones espoused by the regime regardless of individual predisposition. This result holds for domestic and foreign policy issues, for direct and composite measures of attitudes, and persists up to 48 hours after exposure.

Date: 2022
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