Ogan research links partisan news consumption, immigration attitudes
Populist leaders rely on media coverage to gain power, and polarized news sources affect consumers’ views on immigration, professor emerita Chris Ogan said Friday in a research colloquium talk.
“Media’s role in political life becomes an essential part in the populist’s agenda,” she said.
Her talk, “Media, Political Polarization and Populism: What Shapes Americans’ Attitudes Toward Immigrants,” was based on an article she co-authored with Syracuse University professor Lars Willnat, MA’91, PhD’92, a former IU journalism professor.
Populism, or the idea of elites coming to power and working against the interests of the “true people,” can be found all over the world, she said.
“Breaking it down into two groups — however they try to define it — it’s the bad guys versus the good guys,” she said.
In this case, Ogan and Willnat focused on immigration as their core issue.
For example, as President Donald Trump identified immigration as one of his key issues, there was also widespread media coverage surrounding the topic. His approach highlighted the American identity and created an “us versus them” mindset, she said.
Ogan emphasized that populism and political polarization are two separate but connected concepts. In general, she said higher levels of political polarization and populism are associated with more negative attitudes toward immigration.
The type of news coverage people watch can also affect their attitudes, she said.
Their research found that for Republicans, increased exposure to Fox News was associated with higher levels of polarization, whereas exposure to CNN and Twitter were associated with less polarization. Higher levels of populism were associated with more fear of immigrants.
For Democrats, exposure to online news and MSNBC were associated with higher levels of polarization, and exposure to Fox News was associated with lower levels of polarization. Higher levels of populism were associated with more support for pro-immigration policies.
“Attitudes about immigration are highly dependent on party affiliation,” she said.
These breakdowns help illustrate that partisan news consumption is associated with greater political polarization for people of both political parties, she said.
However, cross-party viewing decreases levels of polarization for both parties.
“That’s the hopeful news,” she said.