There is a growing body of work suggesting that responses to positive and negative information are asymmetricthat negative information has a much greater impact on individuals' attitudes than does positive information. This paper explores these asymmetries in mass media responsiveness to positive and negative economic shifts and in public responsiveness to both the economy itself and economic news coverage. Using time-series analyses of U.K. media and public opinion, strong evidence is found of asymmetry. The dynamic is discussed as it applies to political communications and policymaking and more generally to public responsiveness in representative democracies.
Asymmetric Responses to InformationThere is a growing body of work suggesting asymmetry in responses to negative versus positive informa-
This article contributes to the debate about the effects of ethnic diversity on social cohesion, particularly generalized trust. The analysis relies on data from both the ‘Citizenship, Involvement, Democracy’ (CID) survey in the US and the ‘Equality, Security and Community Survey’ (ESCS) in Canada. Our analysis, one of the first controlled cross‐national comparisons of small‐unit contextual variation, confirms recent findings on the negative effect of neighborhood diversity on white majorities across the two countries. Our most important finding, however, is that not everyone is equally sensitive to context. Individuals who regularly talk with their neighbors are less influenced by the racial and ethnic character of their surroundings than people who lack such social interaction. This finding challenges claims about the negative effects of diversity on trust – at least, it suggests that the negative effects so prevalent in existing research can be mediated by social ties.
This study examines the level of politicization and polarization in COVID-19 news in U.S. newspapers and televised network news from March to May 2020. Using multiple computer-assisted content analytic approaches, we find that newspaper coverage is highly politicized, network news coverage somewhat less so, and both newspaper and network news coverage are highly polarized. We find that politicians appear in newspaper coverage more frequently than scientists, whereas politicians and scientists are more equally featured in network news. We suggest that the high degree of politicization and polarization in initial COVID-19 coverage may have contributed to polarization in U.S. COVID-19 attitudes.
Political dynamics are likely to proceed according to more general laws of human dynamics and information processing, but the specifics have yet to be outlined. Here we begin this task by examining public budgeting in comparative perspective. Budgets quantify collective political decisions made in response to incoming information, the preferences of decision-makers, and the institutions that structure how decisions are made. Most models to date stress preferences (organized by political parties) almost exclusively. We suggest a quite different approach.We begin by noting that input distributions for complex information-processing systems are Gaussian, providing a standard for comparing outputs against inputs. Next we examine public budget change distributions from a variety of countries and levels of government, finding that they are invariably distributed as double Paretians-two-tailed power functions. We find systematic differences in exponents for budgetary increases versus decreases (the latter are more punctuated) in most systems, and for levels of government (local governments are less punctuated).Finally, we show that differences among countries in the coefficients of the general budget law are probably explained by differences in the formal institutional structures of the countries. That is, while the general form of the law is dictated by the fundamental operations of human and organizational information processing, differences in the magnitudes of the law's basic parameters are country and institution-specific.
A General Empirical Law of Public Budgets 1Political systems, like many social systems, are characterized by considerable friction.Standard operating procedures in organizations, cultural norms, and all sorts of facets of human cognitive architectures act to provide stability of behavior in a complex world. In politics, ideology and group identifications provide stable guides to behavior in complex circumstances. In politics, however, a second source of friction exists: institutional rules that constrain policy action. In the United States, policies can be enacted only when both houses of congress and the president reach agreement on a measure. In parliamentary democracies, action may be constrained by the necessity to put together multi-party governing coalitions.Institutional rules 'congeal' preferences (Riker 1980), making it difficult for new policies to enter the political arena.In the past, scholars characterized these systems using comparative statics, a method of analysis that concentrated on equilibrium processes based on the preferences of decisionmakers. (Shepsle and Weingast 1987, Krehbiel 1998). Change was admitted primarily though the replacement of governing parties through elections, which established a new preference-based equilibrium to which the policymaking system quickly adjusted. But comparative statics ignores the on-going information-processing needs of an adaptive system, and political systems are clearly adaptive systems. They dynamically respond to incoming i...
Economic perceptions affect policy preferences and government support. It thus matters that these perceptions are driven by factors other than the economy, including media coverage. We nevertheless know little about how media reflect economic trends, and whether they influence (or are influenced by) public economic perceptions. This article explores the economy, media, and public opinion, focusing in particular on whether media coverage and the public react to changes in or levels of economic activity, and the past, present, or future economy. Analyses rely on content-analytic data drawn from 30,000 news stories over 30 years in the United States. Results indicate that coverage reflects change in the future economy, and that this both influences and is influenced by public evaluations. These patterns make more understandable the somewhat surprising finding of positive coverage and public assessments in the midst of the Great Recession. They also may help explain previous findings in political behavior. A growing body of work demonstrates a link between economic conditions and both attitudes about government policy and preferences for spending (e.g., Durr 1993; Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson 2002; Soroka and Wlezien 2010; Stevenson 2001; Wlezien 1995). There also are vast literatures exploring the degree to which support for governments and leaders follows economic trends. Some work focuses on economic conditions and assessments of presidential/government performance and voting (e.g.
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