Stuart Soroka, Michael W Traugott Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Political Science Inaugural Lecture
Bad News, Good Democracy
Political news is overwhelmingly negative. As a consequence, the typical media consumer is far more exposed to political failure than success. Some blame a negative media for declining political interest and engagement, but there is another possibility: negative information is central to citizen attentiveness, and to the effective functioning of representative democracy. Humans are more activated and attentive to negative information, and the institutions we have designed reflect, and capitalize, on this tendency. But have mass media gone too far? Just how much negativity do we need? And does the changing media environment serve to augment or diminish the negative information that dominates our political lives? Drawing on a combination of psycho-physiological experiments and large-scale analyses of media content, this lecture focuses on the connection between the political information we want, and the political information we get.
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