Friday, May 29, 2009

Preaching to the converted

Most people's choice of newspaper tends to reflect their political opinions but even when people are given a choice of media they still tend to pick ones that confirm their opinions. Researchers from Ohio State University studied 156 undergraduate students. They were asked their opinions on topics such as gun control, abortion, health care and the minimum wage. Then, six weeks later, in what the participants thought was a completely unconnected study, they were asked to come back and take part in a 'market research' study on a mocked-up magazine which contained articles about these issues. It was clear which side of the argument the articles took and the researchers were able to use software to analyse what the students were reading. They found that the students spent 36% more time reading articles that agreed with their point of view. They clicked on an average of 1.9 articles that they agreed with and 1.4 articles that they disagreed with. There was a 58% likelihood of them picking an article they agreed with and a 43% chance of them picking one they disagreed with. People with a strong party affiliation, conservative political views and a greater interest in politics were more likely to pick articles they disagreed with. People who said that they frequently read the news were more likely to avoid opposing viewpoints.

You can find out more about this research at

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