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Media persuasion through slanted language: Evidence from the coverage of immigration

Milena Djourelova

Economics Working Papers from Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Abstract: Can the language used by mass media to cover policy relevant issues affect readers' policy preferences? I examine this question for the case of immigration, exploiting an abrupt ban on the term "illegal immigrant" in wire content distributed to media outlets by the Associated Press (AP). Using text data on AP dispatches and the content of a large number of US print and online outlets, I find that articles mentioning "illegal immigrant" decline by 28% in outlets that rely on AP relative to others. This change in language appears to have had a tangible impact on readers' views on immigration. Following AP's ban, individuals exposed to outlets relying more heavily on AP tend to support less restrictive immigration and border security policies. The effect is driven by frequent readers and does not apply to views on issues other than immigration.

Keywords: mass media; media slant; Framing; Immigration (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 L82 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-big
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