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A media repertoires approach to selective exposure: news consumption and political polarization in Eastern Europe

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journal contribution
posted on 14.01.2022, 11:27 by Fanni TothFanni Toth, Sabina MiheljSabina Mihelj, Vaclav StetkaVaclav Stetka, Katherine Kondor
In recent years, links between selective news exposure and political polarisation have attracted considerable attention among communication scholars. However, while the existence of selective exposure has been documented in both offline and online environments, the evidence of its extent and its impact on political polarisation is far from unanimous. To address these questions, and also to bridge methodological and geographical gaps in existing research, this paper adopts a media repertoires approach to investigate selective news exposure and polarisation in four Eastern European countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia. Using a combination of population surveys, expert surveys and qualitative interviews, the data for the study were collected between November 2019 and May 2020. We identify five types of news repertoires based on their relative openness to counter-attitudinal sources, and show that selective news repertoires are present in 29% of the entire sample. Our findings also reveal significant cross-country differences, with the more selective news repertoires more prominent in countries characterised by higher levels of polarisation. Furthermore, while the selection of news sources is in line with people's electoral (and to a lesser extent ideological) preferences, our findings show that exposure to counter-attitudinal sources can also be strongly correlated with political and ideological leanings. Our qualitative data suggest that this is because exposure to counter-attitudinal sources can reinforce attitudes, and potentially contribute to polarisation. Qualitative data also highlight the influence of environmental factors (e.g., family), and suggest that selective news consumption is associated with normatively different conceptions of media trust.

Funding

The Illiberal Turn? News Consumption, Polarization and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

Economic and Social Research Council

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History

School

  • Loughborough University London
  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • Communication and Media

Published in

The International Journal of Press/Politics

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© The Authors

Publisher statement

This is an Open Access Article. It is published by SAGE Publications under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Acceptance date

11/11/2021

Publication date

2022-01-12

Copyright date

2022

ISSN

1940-1612

eISSN

1940-1620

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Vaclav Stetka. Deposit date: 13 January 2022