Researchers Paid Fox News Viewers to Watch CNN – and Many Changed Their Minds on COVID, Mail-in Ballots and More

A new study reveals the extent to which partisan media impacts political beliefs

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A new study published Sunday found that American viewers are likely to change their political views based on the media outlets from which they get their information.

David E. Broockman of the University of California, Berkeley and Joshua Kalla of Yale spent five years researching the effect of partisan media on people’s political views. They tested their theory by gathering a sample of Fox News viewers, some of whom were paid to watch CNN for about seven hours a per week during the month of September 2020. The control group, comprised of the rest of the participants, continued to watch Fox News.

At the end of the testing period, the groups took three rounds of news surveys. Two significant findings emerged from the results: Fox and CNN covered different topics during the survey period, and the Fox-to-CNN group changed their attitudes about several issues.

For instance, those in the switcher group emerged 5 percent more likely to believe in the existence of long COVID. They were also 6 percentage points more likely to think that other countries handled the virus better than the U.S. did.

There was also evidence of change regarding attitudes about the 2020 election, as participants were 7 points more likely to support voting by mail.

The most notable differences revolved around race and President Biden. Participants were 10 points less likely to think that supporters of Biden were glad when police officers got shot, and 13 points less likely to think the number of police who get shot by Black Lives Matter protesters would increase if he were to be elected. They were also 11 points less inclined to say Biden should focus on controlling violent protesters than COVID.

Although the experiment isn’t likely to permanently or drastically alter the subjects’ political leanings – only 24 percent said they supported mail-in ballots, and 46 percent remained convinced that Biden was happy about police shootings – the findings are significant. There’s proof in their revised stances on Fox News, as “treated participants concluded that Fox concealed negative information about President Trump.”

The abstract concluded with the statement, “Partisan media does not only present its side an electoral advantage—it may present a challenge for democratic accountability.”

You can read the full study here.