In their new article, “Red Media vs. Blue Media: Social Distancing and Partisan News Media Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” in the Journal of Health Communication, the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal explores the relationship between partisan media use and social distancing behavior related to COVID-19.
Abstract: Political polarization surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis has been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. We combine prior research on motivated reasoning, selective exposure, and news framing to understand the association between partisan media use and social distancing behavior related to COVID-19. To do so, we collected media content data and national survey data during the onset of the pandemic. We employed structural topic modeling (STM), dependency parsing, word co-occurrence, and manual coding to examine the media coverage. Next, we analyzed survey data collected with a Qualtrics panel from a sample of U.S. residents for factors explaining social distancing behaviors. Results reveal coverage from the right-leaning outlets downplayed the virus and highlighted the consequences of lockdowns on the economy. Our survey findings show that even after accounting for a range of demographic, political orientation, and COVID-19 awareness variables, conservative media use was linked, although modestly, with a lower likelihood of social distancing behavior. Our findings echo past research on media framing of pandemics and their association with public attitudes and behavior.
Full citation: DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2023.2167584
Access to the full article is available through Taylor and Francis.