Does political bias impact news comprehension?

Insights for journalists from News-Psychology research on whether and how political bias indicators (left, center, right) in news stories impact comprehension and perceptions of credibility.

A number of technology solutions are emerging to help news readers sort through their media diets. Packaged as a browser extensions or full-scale websites, these products offer political bias detection, credibility scores, site evaluations, etc., with disclosures about the process, the team or the algorithm doing the evaluation, the methodology, etc.

But at the current time, there is no emergent understanding of whether and how public comprehension of news in stories and perceptions of media credibility is impacted by the presence of such indicators. Without this, it is not clear if these bias labels or signals are helpful or not.

Markkula Center’s Journalism and Media Ethics program and Santa Clara University’s Psychology Department collaborated to run a set of research studies to explore this. We conducted the studies with two sets of news stories, one without any overtly partisan topic or context, and the other with. For plain news stories without partisan values implicated, we found out that comprehension is not impacted but credibility is. Our partisan topic story study launching in April and overall findings will be published by June-July 2020.

Suggested Speaker(s)

  • Subramaniam Vincent
    Director, Journalism and Media Ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University