Governing Society—Divide and Rule?

Governing Society—Divide and Rule?

Purpose: The primary goal of this weekly summative assignment is to critically analyze some of the significant political science concepts, terms, and theories that were covered this first week of our course.

Prepare: Review Chapters 1 to 4 in the course text and access the Sedition Act of 1798.

Reflect: This week, you began learning about the major concepts, terms, and theories that embody political science. In this weekly assignment, you will connect the concepts of atomization, peer policing, and preference falsification to how a government can govern. These three techniques are often used by political leaders to prevent revolutionary groups from forming in opposition to the central government. Analysis of how these techniques are used by leaders to oppose any collective action to overthrow the system will broaden your understanding of how governments maintain control over their citizens.

Write: In your essay of at least 600 words, draw connections from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the concepts of governmental control discussed this week in your course text, A Novel Approach to Politics. First, describe theSedition Act of 1798 available online via the Library of Congress. Next, discuss how theSedition Act of 1798 enhanced governmental control over U.S. citizens. Last, explain how atomization, peer-policing, and preference falsification techniques were utilized in the Sedition Act of 1798.

The Week One Assignment:

  • Must be at least 600 words (not including title and reference pages) and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Introduction to APA.
  • Must include a separate title page with the following:
    • Title of paper
    • Student’s name
    • Course name and number
    • Instructor’s name
    • Date submitted
  • Must use at least three appropriate sources.
    • These should include the Sedition Act of 1789, the course text, and any of the required or recommended resources for this week.
    • You can also include additional resources found on the Ashford University Library website. The Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, and Other Credible Sources table offers additional guidance on appropriate source types.
  • Must document all sources in APA style as outlined in Citing Within Your Paper.
  • Must include an introductory paragraph with a succinct thesis statement.
  • Must include a conclusion that summarizes the main points and restates the thesis.
  • Must include a separate references page that is formatted according to APA style as outlined in Formatting Your References List.

The primary goal of this weekly summative assignment is to critically analyze some of the significant political science concepts

Governing Society—Divide and Rule?

Purpose: The primary goal of this weekly summative assignment is to critically analyze some of the significant political science concepts, terms, and theories that were covered this first week of our course.

Prepare: Review Chapters 1 to 4 in the course text and access the Sedition Act of 1798.

Reflect: This week, you began learning about the major concepts, terms, and theories that embody political science. In this weekly assignment, you will connect the concepts of atomization, peer policing, and preference falsification to how a government can govern. These three techniques are often used by political leaders to prevent revolutionary groups from forming in opposition to the central government. Analysis of how these techniques are used by leaders to oppose any collective action to overthrow the system will broaden your understanding of how governments maintain control over their citizens.

Write: In your essay of at least 600 words, draw connections from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the concepts of governmental control discussed this week in your course text, A Novel Approach to Politics. First, describe theSedition Act of 1798 available online via the Library of Congress. Next, discuss how theSedition Act of 1798 enhanced governmental control over U.S. citizens. Last, explain how atomization, peer-policing, and preference falsification techniques were utilized in the Sedition Act of 1798.

The Week One Assignment:

  • Must be at least 600 words (not including title and reference pages) and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Introduction to APA.
  • Must include a separate title page with the following:
    • Title of paper
    • Student’s name
    • Course name and number
    • Instructor’s name
    • Date submitted
  • Must use at least three appropriate sources.
    • These should include the Sedition Act of 1789, the course text, and any of the required or recommended resources for this week.
    • You can also include additional resources found on the Ashford University Library website. The Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, and Other Credible Sources table offers additional guidance on appropriate source types.
  • Must document all sources in APA style as outlined in Citing Within Your Paper.
  • Must include an introductory paragraph with a succinct thesis statement.
  • Must include a conclusion that summarizes the main points and restates the thesis.
  • Must include a separate references page that is formatted according to APA style as outlined in Formatting Your References List.

Do you think the sharing of news and information through social media such as Twitter and Facebook exacerbates or diminishes the trends identified by Prior?

43

“News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political

Knowledge and Turnout” Markus Prior

Although everyone has contact with the government nearly every day—attending a public school, driving on public roads, using government-regulated electricity, and so on—few citizens have direct contact with the policymaking process. Because of this distance between the public and policymakers, the behavior of intermediaries between the government and the governed is a significant issue in a democratic polity. The media, in particular the news media, are among the most significant of these intermediaries that tell the people what the government is doing and tell the government what the people want.

In today’s media environment, information is more abundant than ever, Markus Prior notes, yet participation and knowledge levels have remained stagnant. Rather than enhancing participatory democracy, as advocates of new media suggest is the norm, the onset of cable television and the Internet has worsened information and participation gaps between those individuals who like to follow the news and those who are more interested in entertainment. Prior argues that the spread of additional news choices, which sounds democratic, has had nondemocratic effects. Newshounds can dig ever deeper into the news, but other members of the public are increasingly able to ignore the news. Other critics have made a similar argument that new media tend to exacerbate public polarization because readers, viewers, and listeners gravitate to outlets presenting opinions they agree with and ignore those sources that would challenge their views.

The rise of new media has brought the question of audience fragmenta­tion and selective exposure to the forefront of scholarly and popular debate. In one of the most widely discussed contributions to this debate.

Sunstein has proposed that people’s increasing ability to customize their political information will have a polarizing impact on democracy as media users become less likely to encounter information that challenges their partisan viewpoints. While this debate is far from settled/ the issue which precedes it is equally important and often sidestepped: as choice between different media content increases, who continues to access any type of political information? Cable television and the Internet have increased

 

 

“News vs. Entertainment” 317

media choice so much in recent decades that many Americans now live in a high-choice media environment. As media choice increases, the likeli­ hood of “chance encounters” with any political content declines signifi­ cantly for many people. Greater choice allows politically interested people to access more information and increase their political knowledge. Yet those who prefer nonpolitical content can more easily escape the news and therefore pick up less political information than they used to. In a high-choice environment, lack of motivation, not lack of skills or resources, poses the main obstacle to a widely informed electorate.

As media choice increases, content preferences thus become the key to understanding political learning and participation. In a high-choice envi­ ronment, politics constantly competes with entertainment. Until recently, the impact of content preferences was limited because media users did not enjoy much choice between different content. Television quickly became the most popular mass medium in history, but for decades the networks’ scheduling ruled out situations in which viewers had to choose between entertainment and news. Largely unexposed to entertainment competi­ tion, news had its place in the early evening and again before the late-night shows. Today, as both entertainment and news are available around the clock on numerous cable channels and web sites, people’s content prefer­ ences determine more of what those with cable or Internet access watch, read, and hear.

Distinguishing between people who like news and take advantage of additional information and people who prefer other media content explains a puzzling empirical finding: despite the spectacular rise in available political information, mean levels, of political knowledge in the popula­ tion have essentially remained constant. Yet the fact that average knowl­ edge levels did not change hides important trends: political knowledge has risen in some segments of the electorate, but declined in others. Greater media choice thus widens the “knowledge gap.” [Njumerous studies have examined the diffusion of information in the population and the differences that emerge between more and less informed individuals. According to some of these studies, television works as a “knowledge lev- eler because it presents information in less cognitively demanding ways. To reconcile this effect with the hypothesis that more television widens the knowledge gap, it is necessary to distinguish the effect of news expo­ sure from the effect of the medium itself. In the low-choice broadcast envi­ ronment, access to the medium and exposure to news were practically one and the same, as less politically interested television viewers had no choice but to watch the news from time to time. As media choice increases, expo­ sure to the news may continue to work as a “knowledge leveler,” but the distribution of news exposure itself has become more unequal. Access to the medium no longer implies exposure to the news. Television news nar­ rows the knowledge gap among its viewers. For the population as a whole, more channels widen the gap.

 

 

318 Markus Prior

The consequences of increasing media choice reach beyond a less equal distribution of political knowledge. Since political knowledge is an important predictor of turnout and since exposure to political infor­ mation motivates turnout, the shift from a low-choice to a high-choice media environment implies changes in electoral participation as well. Those with a preference for news not only become more knowledgeable, but also vote at higher rates. Those with a stronger interest in other media content vote less.

This study casts doubt on the view that the socioeconomic dimension of the digital divide is the greatest obstacle to an informed and participating electorate. Many casual observers emphasize the great promise new tech­ nologies hold for democracy. They deplore current socioeconomic inequal­ ities in access to new media, but predict increasing political knowledge and participation among currently disadvantaged people once these inequalities have been overcome. This ignores that greater media choice leads to greater voluntary segmentation of the electorate. The present study suggests that gaps based on socioeconomic status will be eclipsed by preference-based gaps once access to new media becomes cheaper and more widely available. Gaps created by unequal distribution of resources and skills often emerged due to circumstances outside of people’s control. The preference-based gaps documented in this article are self-imposed as many people abandon the news for entertainment simply because they like it better. Inequality in political knowledge and turnout increases as a result of voluntary, not circumstantial, consumption decisions.

♦ » îfr

Theory The basic premise of this analysis is that people’s media environment determines the extent to which their media use is governed by content preferences. According to theories of program choice, viewers have prefer­ ences over program characteristics or program types and sélect the pro­ gram that promises to be.st satisfy these preferences. The simplest models distinguish between preferences for information and entertainment. In the low-choice broadcast environment, most people watched news and learned about politics because they were reluctant to turn off the set even if the programs offered at the time did not match their preferences. One study conducted in the early 1970s showed that 40% of the respondents reported watching programs because they appeared on the channel they were already watching or because someone else wanted to see them. Audience research has proposed a two-stage model according to which people first decide to watch television and then pick the available pro­ gram they like best. Klein aptly called this model the “Theory of Least Objectionable Program.” If television viewers are routinely “glued to the box” and select the best available program, we can explain why so many

 

 

News vs. Entertainment” 319

Americans watched television news in the 1960s and 70s despite modest political interest. Most television viewing in the broadcast era did not stem from a deliberate choice of a program, but rather was determined by convenience, availability of spare time and the decision to spend that time in front of the TV set. And since broadcast channels offered a solid block of news at the dinner hour and again after primetime, many viewers were routinely exposed to news even though they watched television primarily to be entertained.

Once exposed to television news, people learn about politics. Although a captive news audience does not exhibit the same political interest as a

^self-selected one and therefore may not learn as much, research on passive ^ learning suggests that even unmotivated exposure can produce learning. Hence, even broadcast viewers who prefer entertainment programs absorb at least basic political knowledge when they happen to tune in when only news is on.

I propose that such accidental exposure should become less likely in a high-choice environment because greater horizontal diversity (the number of genres available at any particular point in time) increases the chance that viewers will find content that matches their preferences. The impact of one’s preferences increases, and “indiscriminate viewing” becomes less likely. Cable subscribers’ channel repertoire (the number of frequently viewed channels) is not dramatically higher than that of non­ subscribers, but their repertoire reflects a set of channels that are more closely related to their genre preferences. Two-stage viewing behavior thus predicts that news audiences should decrease as more alternatives are offered on other channels. Indeed, local news audiences tend to be smaller when competing entertainment programming is scheduled. Baum and Kernell show that cable subscribers, especially the less informed among them, are less likely to watch the presidential debates than other­ wise similar individuals who receive only broadcast television. Accord­ ing to my first hypothesis, the advent of cable TV increased the knowledge gap between people with a preference for news and people with a prefer­ ence for other media content.

Internet access should contribute to an increasing knowledge gap as well. Although the two media are undoubtedly different in many respects, access to the Internet, like cable, makes media choice more efficient. Yet, while they both increase media users’ content choice, cable TV and the Internet are not perfect substitutes for each other. Compared at least to dial-up Internet service, cable offers greater immediacy and more visuals. The web offers more detailed information and can be customized to a greater extent. Both media, in other words, have unique features, and access to both of them offers users the greatest flexibility. For instance, people with access to both media can watch a campaign speech on cable and then compare online how different newspapers cover the event. Depend­ ing on their needs or the issue that interests them, they can actively search

 

 

320 Markus Prior

a wealth of political information online or passively consume cable poli­ tics. Hence, the effects of cable TV and Internet access should be additive and the knowledge gap largest among people with access to both new media.

There are several reasons why exposure to political information increases the likelihood that an individual will cast a vote on election day. Exposure increases political knowledge, which in turn increases turnout because people know where, how, and for whom to vote. Fur­ thermore, knowledgeable people are more likely to perceive differences between candidates and thus less likely to abstain due to indifference. Independent of learning effects, exposure to political information on cable news and political web sites is likely to increase people’s campaign inter­ est. Interest, in turn, affects turnout even when one controls for political knowledge. Entertainment fans with a cable box or Internet connection, on the other hand, will miss both the interest- and the information-based effect of broadcast news on turnout. My second hypothesis thus predicts a widening turnout gap in the current environment, as people who prefer news vote at higher rates and those with other preferences increasingly stay home from the polls.

♦ ♦ *

Conclusion When speculating about the political implications of new media, pundits and scholars tend to either praise the likely benefits for democracy in the digital age or dwell on the dangers. The optimists claim that the greater availability of political information will lead more people to learn more about politics and increase their involvement in the political process. The pessimists fear that new media will make people apolitical and provide mind-numbing entertainment that keeps citizens from fulfilling their democratic responsibilities. These two predictions are often presented / as mutually exclusive. Things will either spiral upwards or spiral down­ wards; the circle is either virtuous or vicious. The analyses presented here show that both are true. New media do indeed increase political knowl­ edge and involvement in the electoral process among some people, just as the optimists predict. Yet, the evidence supports the pessimists’ scenario as well. Other people take advantage of greater choice and tune out of politics completely. Those with a preference for entertainment, once they gain access to new media, become less knowledgeable about politics and less likely to vote. People’s media content preferences become the key to understanding the political implications of new media.

* * *

The decline in the size of news audiences over the last three decades has been identified as cause for concern by many observers who have

 

 

“News vs. Entertainment” 321

generally interpreted it as a sign of waning political interest and a disap­ pearing sense of civic duty. Yet changes in available content can affect news consumption and learning even in the absence of preference changes. People’s media use may change in a modified media environment, even if their preferences (or political interest or sense of civic duty) remain con­ stant. By this logic, the decreasing size of the news audience is not neces­ sarily an indication of reduced political interest. Interest in politics may simply never have been as high as audience shares for evening news sug­ gested. A combined market share for the three network newscasts of almost 90% takes on a different meaning if one considers that people had hardly any viewing alternatives. It was “politics by default,” not politics by choice. Even the mediocre levels of political knowledge during the broadcast era, in other words, were partly a result of de facto restrictions of people’s freedom to choose their preferred media content.

Ironically, we might have to pin our hopes of creating a reasonably evenly informed electorate on that reviled form of communication, politi­ cal advertising. Large segments of the electorate in a high-choice environ­ ment do not voluntarily watch, read, or listen to political information. Their greatest chance for encounters with the political world occurs when commercials are inserted into their regular entertainment diet. And expo­ sure to political ads can increase viewers’ political knowledge. At least for the time being, before recording services like TiVo, which automatically skip the commercial breaks, or subscriber-financed premium cable chan­ nels without advertising become more widespread, political advertising is more likely than news coverage to reach these viewers.

It might seem counterintuitive that political knowledge has decreased for a substantial portion of the electorate even though the amount of political information has multiplied and is more readily available than ever before. The share of politically uninformed people has risen since we entered the so-called “information age.” Television as a medium has often been denigrated as “dumb,” but, helped by the features of the broadcast environment, it may have been more successful in reaching less interested segments of the population than the “encyclopedic” Internet. In contrast to the view that politics is simply too difficult and complex to understand, this study shows that motivation, not ability, is the main obstacle that stands between an abundance of political information and a well- and evenly informed public.

When differences in political knowledge and turnout arise from ine­ quality in the distribution of resources and skills, recommendations for how to help the information have-nots are generally uncontroversial. To the extent that knowledge and turnout gaps in the new media environ­ ment arise from voluntary consumption decisions, recommendations for how to narrow them, or whether to narrow them at all, become more contestable on normative grounds. As [Anthony] Downs remarked a long time ago, “[t]he loss of freedom involved in forcing people to acquire

 

 

322 Markus Prior

information would probably far outweigh the benefits to be gained from a better-informed electorate.” Even if a consensus emerged to reduce media choice for the public good, it would still be technically impossible, even temporarily, to put the genie back in the bottle. Avoiding politics will never again be as difficult as it was in the “golden age” of television.

* * *

Discussion Questions 1. Are you concerned by the findings in Prior’s study? If not, why not?

If you are, can you think of any way to overcome the problem he has identified?

2. What lessons should public officials take from Prior’s study? Should they pay less attention to public opinion because of the gaps in information and interest among members of the public?

3. Do you think the sharing of news and information through social media such as Twitter and Facebook exacerbates or diminishes the trends identified by Prior?

Are you concerned by the findings in Prior’s study?

43

“News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political

Knowledge and Turnout” Markus Prior

Although everyone has contact with the government nearly every day—attending a public school, driving on public roads, using government-regulated electricity, and so on—few citizens have direct contact with the policymaking process. Because of this distance between the public and policymakers, the behavior of intermediaries between the government and the governed is a significant issue in a democratic polity. The media, in particular the news media, are among the most significant of these intermediaries that tell the people what the government is doing and tell the government what the people want.

In today’s media environment, information is more abundant than ever, Markus Prior notes, yet participation and knowledge levels have remained stagnant. Rather than enhancing participatory democracy, as advocates of new media suggest is the norm, the onset of cable television and the Internet has worsened information and participation gaps between those individuals who like to follow the news and those who are more interested in entertainment. Prior argues that the spread of additional news choices, which sounds democratic, has had nondemocratic effects. Newshounds can dig ever deeper into the news, but other members of the public are increasingly able to ignore the news. Other critics have made a similar argument that new media tend to exacerbate public polarization because readers, viewers, and listeners gravitate to outlets presenting opinions they agree with and ignore those sources that would challenge their views.

The rise of new media has brought the question of audience fragmenta­tion and selective exposure to the forefront of scholarly and popular debate. In one of the most widely discussed contributions to this debate.

Sunstein has proposed that people’s increasing ability to customize their political information will have a polarizing impact on democracy as media users become less likely to encounter information that challenges their partisan viewpoints. While this debate is far from settled/ the issue which precedes it is equally important and often sidestepped: as choice between different media content increases, who continues to access any type of political information? Cable television and the Internet have increased

 

 

“News vs. Entertainment” 317

media choice so much in recent decades that many Americans now live in a high-choice media environment. As media choice increases, the likeli­ hood of “chance encounters” with any political content declines signifi­ cantly for many people. Greater choice allows politically interested people to access more information and increase their political knowledge. Yet those who prefer nonpolitical content can more easily escape the news and therefore pick up less political information than they used to. In a high-choice environment, lack of motivation, not lack of skills or resources, poses the main obstacle to a widely informed electorate.

As media choice increases, content preferences thus become the key to understanding political learning and participation. In a high-choice envi­ ronment, politics constantly competes with entertainment. Until recently, the impact of content preferences was limited because media users did not enjoy much choice between different content. Television quickly became the most popular mass medium in history, but for decades the networks’ scheduling ruled out situations in which viewers had to choose between entertainment and news. Largely unexposed to entertainment competi­ tion, news had its place in the early evening and again before the late-night shows. Today, as both entertainment and news are available around the clock on numerous cable channels and web sites, people’s content prefer­ ences determine more of what those with cable or Internet access watch, read, and hear.

Distinguishing between people who like news and take advantage of additional information and people who prefer other media content explains a puzzling empirical finding: despite the spectacular rise in available political information, mean levels, of political knowledge in the popula­ tion have essentially remained constant. Yet the fact that average knowl­ edge levels did not change hides important trends: political knowledge has risen in some segments of the electorate, but declined in others. Greater media choice thus widens the “knowledge gap.” [Njumerous studies have examined the diffusion of information in the population and the differences that emerge between more and less informed individuals. According to some of these studies, television works as a “knowledge lev- eler because it presents information in less cognitively demanding ways. To reconcile this effect with the hypothesis that more television widens the knowledge gap, it is necessary to distinguish the effect of news expo­ sure from the effect of the medium itself. In the low-choice broadcast envi­ ronment, access to the medium and exposure to news were practically one and the same, as less politically interested television viewers had no choice but to watch the news from time to time. As media choice increases, expo­ sure to the news may continue to work as a “knowledge leveler,” but the distribution of news exposure itself has become more unequal. Access to the medium no longer implies exposure to the news. Television news nar­ rows the knowledge gap among its viewers. For the population as a whole, more channels widen the gap.

 

 

318 Markus Prior

The consequences of increasing media choice reach beyond a less equal distribution of political knowledge. Since political knowledge is an important predictor of turnout and since exposure to political infor­ mation motivates turnout, the shift from a low-choice to a high-choice media environment implies changes in electoral participation as well. Those with a preference for news not only become more knowledgeable, but also vote at higher rates. Those with a stronger interest in other media content vote less.

This study casts doubt on the view that the socioeconomic dimension of the digital divide is the greatest obstacle to an informed and participating electorate. Many casual observers emphasize the great promise new tech­ nologies hold for democracy. They deplore current socioeconomic inequal­ ities in access to new media, but predict increasing political knowledge and participation among currently disadvantaged people once these inequalities have been overcome. This ignores that greater media choice leads to greater voluntary segmentation of the electorate. The present study suggests that gaps based on socioeconomic status will be eclipsed by preference-based gaps once access to new media becomes cheaper and more widely available. Gaps created by unequal distribution of resources and skills often emerged due to circumstances outside of people’s control. The preference-based gaps documented in this article are self-imposed as many people abandon the news for entertainment simply because they like it better. Inequality in political knowledge and turnout increases as a result of voluntary, not circumstantial, consumption decisions.

♦ » îfr

Theory The basic premise of this analysis is that people’s media environment determines the extent to which their media use is governed by content preferences. According to theories of program choice, viewers have prefer­ ences over program characteristics or program types and sélect the pro­ gram that promises to be.st satisfy these preferences. The simplest models distinguish between preferences for information and entertainment. In the low-choice broadcast environment, most people watched news and learned about politics because they were reluctant to turn off the set even if the programs offered at the time did not match their preferences. One study conducted in the early 1970s showed that 40% of the respondents reported watching programs because they appeared on the channel they were already watching or because someone else wanted to see them. Audience research has proposed a two-stage model according to which people first decide to watch television and then pick the available pro­ gram they like best. Klein aptly called this model the “Theory of Least Objectionable Program.” If television viewers are routinely “glued to the box” and select the best available program, we can explain why so many

 

 

News vs. Entertainment” 319

Americans watched television news in the 1960s and 70s despite modest political interest. Most television viewing in the broadcast era did not stem from a deliberate choice of a program, but rather was determined by convenience, availability of spare time and the decision to spend that time in front of the TV set. And since broadcast channels offered a solid block of news at the dinner hour and again after primetime, many viewers were routinely exposed to news even though they watched television primarily to be entertained.

Once exposed to television news, people learn about politics. Although a captive news audience does not exhibit the same political interest as a

^self-selected one and therefore may not learn as much, research on passive ^ learning suggests that even unmotivated exposure can produce learning. Hence, even broadcast viewers who prefer entertainment programs absorb at least basic political knowledge when they happen to tune in when only news is on.

I propose that such accidental exposure should become less likely in a high-choice environment because greater horizontal diversity (the number of genres available at any particular point in time) increases the chance that viewers will find content that matches their preferences. The impact of one’s preferences increases, and “indiscriminate viewing” becomes less likely. Cable subscribers’ channel repertoire (the number of frequently viewed channels) is not dramatically higher than that of non­ subscribers, but their repertoire reflects a set of channels that are more closely related to their genre preferences. Two-stage viewing behavior thus predicts that news audiences should decrease as more alternatives are offered on other channels. Indeed, local news audiences tend to be smaller when competing entertainment programming is scheduled. Baum and Kernell show that cable subscribers, especially the less informed among them, are less likely to watch the presidential debates than other­ wise similar individuals who receive only broadcast television. Accord­ ing to my first hypothesis, the advent of cable TV increased the knowledge gap between people with a preference for news and people with a prefer­ ence for other media content.

Internet access should contribute to an increasing knowledge gap as well. Although the two media are undoubtedly different in many respects, access to the Internet, like cable, makes media choice more efficient. Yet, while they both increase media users’ content choice, cable TV and the Internet are not perfect substitutes for each other. Compared at least to dial-up Internet service, cable offers greater immediacy and more visuals. The web offers more detailed information and can be customized to a greater extent. Both media, in other words, have unique features, and access to both of them offers users the greatest flexibility. For instance, people with access to both media can watch a campaign speech on cable and then compare online how different newspapers cover the event. Depend­ ing on their needs or the issue that interests them, they can actively search

 

 

320 Markus Prior

a wealth of political information online or passively consume cable poli­ tics. Hence, the effects of cable TV and Internet access should be additive and the knowledge gap largest among people with access to both new media.

There are several reasons why exposure to political information increases the likelihood that an individual will cast a vote on election day. Exposure increases political knowledge, which in turn increases turnout because people know where, how, and for whom to vote. Fur­ thermore, knowledgeable people are more likely to perceive differences between candidates and thus less likely to abstain due to indifference. Independent of learning effects, exposure to political information on cable news and political web sites is likely to increase people’s campaign inter­ est. Interest, in turn, affects turnout even when one controls for political knowledge. Entertainment fans with a cable box or Internet connection, on the other hand, will miss both the interest- and the information-based effect of broadcast news on turnout. My second hypothesis thus predicts a widening turnout gap in the current environment, as people who prefer news vote at higher rates and those with other preferences increasingly stay home from the polls.

♦ ♦ *

Conclusion When speculating about the political implications of new media, pundits and scholars tend to either praise the likely benefits for democracy in the digital age or dwell on the dangers. The optimists claim that the greater availability of political information will lead more people to learn more about politics and increase their involvement in the political process. The pessimists fear that new media will make people apolitical and provide mind-numbing entertainment that keeps citizens from fulfilling their democratic responsibilities. These two predictions are often presented / as mutually exclusive. Things will either spiral upwards or spiral down­ wards; the circle is either virtuous or vicious. The analyses presented here show that both are true. New media do indeed increase political knowl­ edge and involvement in the electoral process among some people, just as the optimists predict. Yet, the evidence supports the pessimists’ scenario as well. Other people take advantage of greater choice and tune out of politics completely. Those with a preference for entertainment, once they gain access to new media, become less knowledgeable about politics and less likely to vote. People’s media content preferences become the key to understanding the political implications of new media.

* * *

The decline in the size of news audiences over the last three decades has been identified as cause for concern by many observers who have

 

 

“News vs. Entertainment” 321

generally interpreted it as a sign of waning political interest and a disap­ pearing sense of civic duty. Yet changes in available content can affect news consumption and learning even in the absence of preference changes. People’s media use may change in a modified media environment, even if their preferences (or political interest or sense of civic duty) remain con­ stant. By this logic, the decreasing size of the news audience is not neces­ sarily an indication of reduced political interest. Interest in politics may simply never have been as high as audience shares for evening news sug­ gested. A combined market share for the three network newscasts of almost 90% takes on a different meaning if one considers that people had hardly any viewing alternatives. It was “politics by default,” not politics by choice. Even the mediocre levels of political knowledge during the broadcast era, in other words, were partly a result of de facto restrictions of people’s freedom to choose their preferred media content.

Ironically, we might have to pin our hopes of creating a reasonably evenly informed electorate on that reviled form of communication, politi­ cal advertising. Large segments of the electorate in a high-choice environ­ ment do not voluntarily watch, read, or listen to political information. Their greatest chance for encounters with the political world occurs when commercials are inserted into their regular entertainment diet. And expo­ sure to political ads can increase viewers’ political knowledge. At least for the time being, before recording services like TiVo, which automatically skip the commercial breaks, or subscriber-financed premium cable chan­ nels without advertising become more widespread, political advertising is more likely than news coverage to reach these viewers.

It might seem counterintuitive that political knowledge has decreased for a substantial portion of the electorate even though the amount of political information has multiplied and is more readily available than ever before. The share of politically uninformed people has risen since we entered the so-called “information age.” Television as a medium has often been denigrated as “dumb,” but, helped by the features of the broadcast environment, it may have been more successful in reaching less interested segments of the population than the “encyclopedic” Internet. In contrast to the view that politics is simply too difficult and complex to understand, this study shows that motivation, not ability, is the main obstacle that stands between an abundance of political information and a well- and evenly informed public.

When differences in political knowledge and turnout arise from ine­ quality in the distribution of resources and skills, recommendations for how to help the information have-nots are generally uncontroversial. To the extent that knowledge and turnout gaps in the new media environ­ ment arise from voluntary consumption decisions, recommendations for how to narrow them, or whether to narrow them at all, become more contestable on normative grounds. As [Anthony] Downs remarked a long time ago, “[t]he loss of freedom involved in forcing people to acquire

 

 

322 Markus Prior

information would probably far outweigh the benefits to be gained from a better-informed electorate.” Even if a consensus emerged to reduce media choice for the public good, it would still be technically impossible, even temporarily, to put the genie back in the bottle. Avoiding politics will never again be as difficult as it was in the “golden age” of television.

* * *

Discussion Questions 1. Are you concerned by the findings in Prior’s study? If not, why not?

If you are, can you think of any way to overcome the problem he has identified?

2. What lessons should public officials take from Prior’s study? Should they pay less attention to public opinion because of the gaps in information and interest among members of the public?

3. Do you think the sharing of news and information through social media such as Twitter and Facebook exacerbates or diminishes the trends identified by Prior?

Political Knowledge and Turnout

Read “News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout” and respond to the following questions.

  • What is the essay’s main point regarding the new media available to people?    
  • How does the author support this point (what “evidence” is used to make this point)?  
  • Do you think the argument is compelling?  Why or why not? 

Please make your response at least 3/4 page in length (double spaced, size 12 Times New Roman).  Please do not use name, traditional header information, or titles for this assignment.

-Need it by Sunday(2/18) at 11 pm in Pacific Time Zone

Fascism existed during the 20th century in what country?

Question

Question 1

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which of the following best characterizes Aristotle?

He explained both what is and what ought to be.

He neither explained what is nor what ought to be.

He only explained what ought to be.

He only explained what is.

Question 2

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau would likely agree on which of the following?

Individuals join and stay in civil society.

Empirical research is important.

Power resided with the proletariat.

Life is nasty and brutish.

Question 3

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) If _____ were alive, he might suggest that poor academic performance in schools could be attributed to a society that does not promote education and provides few resources devoted to schools.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Thomas Hobbes

John Locke

Niccolo Machiavelli

Question 4

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which of the following would most likely be supported by the bourgeoisie?

Conflict for economic gain

Minority rights

Equality for all

A revolt by the proletariat

Question 5

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which statement best supports Marxist theories?

Uneven benefits to corporations with few benefits for workers led to the economic crises in the early 2000s.

The United States provides ample opportunities for all who work hard.

Tax breaks will often create jobs, benefiting the working class.

Similarities exist between economies in both Europe and the United States.

Question 6

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which statement best applies to Adam Smith?

Marxists promoted his views because of concerns of the proletariat.

His views began as conservative, but are now associated with modern liberalism.

His views were once considered liberal, but are now promoted by conservatives.

His views have always been advocated by liberals.

Question 7

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Thomas Hill Green might agree with which of the following?

Markets regulate themselves.

Taxes should benefit business owners because they allow owners to hire more workers.

No one is forced to take a job he or she doesn’t like.

Unions are necessary to protect workers against business owners.

Question 8

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Modern American conservatism would favor government involvement in what activity?

Regulating markets

A progressive tax system

Religious promotion

Protecting organized labor

Question 9

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) _____ prefer virtually no government involvement in anything.

Marxists

Liberals

Conservatives

Libertarians

Question 10

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Fascism existed during the 20th century in what country?

Italy

Iceland

Ireland

France

News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout

Read “News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout” and respond to the following questions.

  • What is the essay’s main point regarding the new media available to people?    
  • How does the author support this point (what “evidence” is used to make this point)?  
  • Do you think the argument is compelling?  Why or why not? 

Please make your response at least 3/4 page in length (double spaced, size 12 Times New Roman).  Please do not use name, traditional header information, or titles for this assignment.

-Need it by Sunday(2/18) at 11 pm in Pacific Time Zone

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau would likely agree on which of the following?

Question

Question 1

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which of the following best characterizes Aristotle?

He explained both what is and what ought to be.

He neither explained what is nor what ought to be.

He only explained what ought to be.

He only explained what is.

Question 2

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau would likely agree on which of the following?

Individuals join and stay in civil society.

Empirical research is important.

Power resided with the proletariat.

Life is nasty and brutish.

Question 3

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) If _____ were alive, he might suggest that poor academic performance in schools could be attributed to a society that does not promote education and provides few resources devoted to schools.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Thomas Hobbes

John Locke

Niccolo Machiavelli

Question 4

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which of the following would most likely be supported by the bourgeoisie?

Conflict for economic gain

Minority rights

Equality for all

A revolt by the proletariat

Question 5

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which statement best supports Marxist theories?

Uneven benefits to corporations with few benefits for workers led to the economic crises in the early 2000s.

The United States provides ample opportunities for all who work hard.

Tax breaks will often create jobs, benefiting the working class.

Similarities exist between economies in both Europe and the United States.

Question 6

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Which statement best applies to Adam Smith?

Marxists promoted his views because of concerns of the proletariat.

His views began as conservative, but are now associated with modern liberalism.

His views were once considered liberal, but are now promoted by conservatives.

His views have always been advocated by liberals.

Question 7

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Thomas Hill Green might agree with which of the following?

Markets regulate themselves.

Taxes should benefit business owners because they allow owners to hire more workers.

No one is forced to take a job he or she doesn’t like.

Unions are necessary to protect workers against business owners.

Question 8

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Modern American conservatism would favor government involvement in what activity?

Regulating markets

A progressive tax system

Religious promotion

Protecting organized labor

Question 9

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) _____ prefer virtually no government involvement in anything.

Marxists

Liberals

Conservatives

Libertarians

Question 10

3 / 3 pts

(TCO 6) Fascism existed during the 20th century in what country?

Italy

Iceland

Ireland

France

Agenda setting can be a difficult task in government

Agenda setting can be a difficult task in government. Why? Who do you consider an important agenda setter in government? How does this participant help set the agenda? Give an example of an attempt at agenda setting in government. Was it successful? Why or why not? Consider how factors such as culture, political positions, etc. might impact your own, or the agenda setters’ priorities.

Use evidence (cite sources) to support your response from assigned readings or online lessons, and at least one outside scholarly source.

Writing an outline for a five-paragraph analytical essay building on a clear and concise thesis statement, including topic sentences and secondary supports

Write an outline of a political science essay! It’s about one of these two movies “ Do the Right Thing, 1998′ Directed  by Spike Lee or Smoke Signals, 1998; Directed by Chris EyreAssignment Objectives:  Enhance and/or improve critical thinking and media literacy skills by 1. Developing a clear and concise thesis statement (an argument) in response to the following question: Does the film have the power to transform political sensibilities?                                2. Writing an outline for a five-paragraph analytical essay building on a clear and concise thesis statement, including topic sentences and secondary supports.                                3. Identifying and explaining three scenes from the film text in support of the thesis statement/argument.                                4.  Writing an introductory paragraph for the outlined analytical essay be sure to read thoroughly the writing conventions below before beginning this assignment.  Note: You are NOT writing a full essay; rather, you are outlining an analytical essay by completing the dialogue boxes below. Writing a Critical Review (analytical) Essay

  1. Every essay that you write for this course must have a clear thesis, placed (perhaps) somewhere near the end of the introductory paragraph. Simply stated, a THESIS (or ARGUMENT) expresses, preferably in a single sentence, the point you want to make about the text that is the subject of your essay. A THESIS should be an opinion or interpretation of the text, not merely a fact or observation.  The best possible THESIS will answer some specific questions about the text. Very often the THESIS contains an outline of the major points to be covered in the essay. A possible thesis for an essay on character in Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come might read somewhat as follows:   The protagonist of THTC is not a hero in the epic sense of the word, but a self-centered young man bred of economic oppression and cultural dependency. The characters in this film have no real psychological depth, but are markers for a society of consumption and momentary glory.   (You might then go on to exemplify from the text and argue in favor or against this interpretation: your essay need not hold to only one perspective.)   What single, clear QUESTION does the above THESIS attempt to answer?
  2. Each essay should be organized into five (5) paragraphs, each based on one of two to four major ideas, which will comprise the BODY of the essay. Each paragraph must have a topic sentence, often (but not always) towards the beginning of the paragraph, which clearly states the ARGUMENT or point to be made in the paragraph. Following the thesis set forth above, the first paragraph might begin with a sentence like “Ivan’s desires and his destiny are signaled in the opening shots of the film, where the friendly, jumbled interior of the bus is contrasted with Ivan’s first view of the outer world: a world of shiny white cars and beautiful women.” Avoid topic sentences that fail to make an interpretative statement about the work or that merely state something any reader might observe; for example, “The first characters we see are country people on a bus to town.”
  3. Underline the THESIS and each TOPIC SENTENCE in every critical review essay you submit. This exercise will force you to make certain that you have expressed and developed the ideas in your essay clearly and logically.  (In other words, do not do this exercise five minutes before you submit the essay but, rather, as you are working on the very first draft.)
  4. Always use present tense verbs in your critical review essays about film texts.  Present tense is the verb tense of analysis Past tense, on the other hand, is the tense of narration. In each essay, you will be analyzing a particular text, not retelling or summarizing the story.  If you find yourself slipping into past tense as you compose, you are probably narrating rather than analyzing.
  5. Use specific passages from the text to support each point that you make in your essay. You may simply refer to an event in the text, or you may paraphrase what a character or the narrator says. But the best EVIDENCE will most often be direct quotes from the text.

The Introductory Paragraph – Some ApproachesIn your essay, an opening or introductory paragraph may not always be the first one you write.  But it will be the first one your readers read and you need to engage your readers’ attention and interest and present all you need to make your thesis clear and convincing.

  1. Some Pitfalls to Avoid
    1. Dictionary definitions:  Define key terms and concepts in your opening paragraph, but don’t quote directly from the dictionary to do so. Use a dictionary – more than one dictionary – to formulate the definition in your own words.
    2. Generalizations about “life,” “society,” “people today,” etc.: You don’t want to begin your essay with the kind of statement that teeters on that fine line between opinion (those ideas you will go on to prove) and belief (those ideas unprovable with the evidence offered by the text).  Rather than a statement like, “Almost every man has a sense of pride and will go to war to prove it,” try something more specific to the text you are analyzing.  “The character of Roland exemplifies how personal pride and personal valor do not always lead to the most fortunate conclusion.”
    3. The painfully obvious:  Avoid opening statements like “Dante’s Inferno is about a journey to hell,” or “Roland is the hero of The Song of Roland,” unless such statements are in some way controversial and challenging to traditional interpretations of the text. Try to avoid any kind of tautological formula – “something is something else” – in the opening sentence, especially, but also elsewhere as an “argument.”
    4. Try to distinguish between historical or biographical fact:  “Dante’s Inferno was written in fourteenth-century Italy,” and interpretation, especially when you are considering the intention of an author:  “Dante wrote his Inferno to expose the problem of Florentine political corruption to the world.” The latter may be a part of your theory or thesis (or conclusion) but if you use it as a statement of fact (an “intentional fallacy”) you will have to prove it rather than merely argue it – a slippery and difficult and perhaps not particularly useful task. Beware also of using vague or imprecise generalizations of terms such as “dramatic,” “realistic,” or “critical,” which differ in their literary and historical significance.
  2. Challenges to Meet
    1. Try for a (syntactically) shapely and relevant opening sentence: be thoughtful and original and persuasive.  Always look for interesting ways into your essay: an epigraph, perhaps, or an important episode that seems to set the stage for what you want to say, or a succinct comparison with another well-known work, which will help your reader understand the point you want to make.
    2. Always (particularly in a comparative essay) identify your texts early on. (Usually with full title, full authors’ names, and date/period of publication.)
    3. Think of your thesis statement as the logical goal of the first paragraph. Everything you say here should lead towards (or from) that thesis. Anything that doesn’t lead in that direction – unless you are presenting a view different from yours, which you want to argue against—doesn’t belong in your paragraph.  Think of the paragraph as a funnel, where the contents are being concentrated and filtered to one end.

Critical Review #3 Due April 18, 2018 

*Using proper MLA bibliographic formatting, cite the film text in the box to the right: http://www.bibme.org/citation-guide/MLA/film*1. Develop a thesis statement pertaining to the assigned film text and whether or not it, the film, in your view has the power to transform one’s political sensibilities. Your argument should express your point of view regarding the politics of difference, political sensibilities, and political transformation(s) as related to the film. Remember, you’re writing (developing) an analytical essay. Submit your thesis statement in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.*2. Develop three (3) topic sentences that articulate the major ideas that will comprise the body of your essay. Remember that your topic sentences should clearly state the argument or point to be made in the respective paragraphs and must map back to your thesis statement. Submit your topic sentences in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.*3. Identify three (3) scenes from the film that support your thesis statement. Briefly explain your choices of scenes and how the scenes specifically support your thesis statement. Also, provide the exact time the scenes begin and end within the film text. Submit your reply in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.*4. Lastly, fully develop your introductory paragraph. Remember that the best possible thesis will answer some specific question about the text. In this case a question related to the film’s power to transform political sensibilities regarding difference. Your thesis statement should appear parenthetically within the paragraph you present. Submit your answer in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.