3.3 Clouded Judgment: Does Political Partisanship Influence Audience Perceptions of Weather Information?

Tuesday, 8 January 2019: 11:00 AM
North 226C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Jeremy L. Shermak, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

In this age of deep political division and hostility, media credibility is constantly under attack. Many media consumers are dismissing facts in favor of political ideology. Has this attitude made its way to news beyond that of political nature? More specifically, does this affect the way people perceive weather news and forecasting? This study will determine if political partisanship has “clouded” public perception of traditionally apolitical news by testing for evidence of selective judgment and hostile media effect in the retention and decision making following exposure to weather information from politically diverse news outlets. Participants will be exposed to three different types of weather information (long-term forecast, tonight’s forecast and a tornado warning) from three different news sources where two are politically polarized (liberal-leaning and conservative-learning) and one is neutral. This experiment will test media credibility and risk perception of these sources under these conditions. The purpose of this study is to determine the effect that a news outlet’s political leaning has on the credibility of a weather forecast and weather-related news. This will be important to meteorologists and crisis communication professionals because it is possible that the audience’s political concerns are clouding their awareness of scientific information. For scholars, this could be an entirely new phenomenon that would require further exploration while at the same time contributing to the concept of hostile media effect. For the world at large, it could reveal a great deal about how humans think when politics enter the fray.
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