How did Americans Really Think About the Apple/FBI Dispute? A Mixed-Method Study




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Second-level agenda-setting suggests that news media influence how we think. As a case study examining the nature and effects of mainstream news media’s coverage of the 2015 Apple/FBI dispute about data privacy versus national security, this study found via content analysis that a majority of articles covering the dispute (73.7%) made the same potentially misleading claim about how the American public feels about the dispute. Nearly half (45.6%) of those articles made public opinion claims without offering empirical evidence, and almost all articles (97.4%) that cited the Pew survey appeared to have inadvertently created an unsubstantiated social reality. Then, this study found in a subsequent experiment that, consistent with impersonal influence, the above-mentioned news portrayals significantly affected the participants’ view on Americans’ collective opinion towards the Apple/FBI dispute. The long-term effect of this journalistic oversight is notable. Theoretical implications and practical recommendations for future science communication in the news are discussed. ©2019 Informa UK Ltd., trading as Taylor & Francis Group


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Apple computer, Content analysis (Communication), United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation, News agencies, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Public opinion polls, Public opinion


©2019 Informa UK Ltd.