No effect of partisan framing on opinions about the COVID-19 pandemic

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

Media critics frequently complain about the tendency of reporters to cover political news using partisan conflict or partisan game frames, which describe policy disagreement as sites of partisan conflict where the parties can score “wins” or “losses.” Such frames, thought to decrease trust and increase partisan polarization, may be particularly dangerous when used in the coverage of public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We report a survey experiment where 2,455 respondents were assigned to read coverage of the pandemic that was framed in non-partisan terms, in terms of partisan conflict, or as a game where one party was winning and the other losing. Contrary to expectations, we find no effect of these frames across a broad range of opinions about and actions related to the pandemic, with the exception of a small negative effect of partisan game-framed coverage on the desire to consume news about the pandemic. These results suggest that partisan framing may not have negative effects during a public health crisis or, alternately, that such effects are difficult to detect in real-time using traditional survey experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-144
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Volume31
Issue numberS1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Chris Federico for comments on an early version of this experimental design.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elections, Public Opinion & Parties.

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