Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age / Edition 1

Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age / Edition 1

by Matthew A. Baum
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
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Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age / Edition 1

The American public has consistently declared itself less concerned with foreign affairs in the post-Cold War era, even after 9/11, than at any time since World War II. How can it be, then, that public attentiveness to U.S. foreign policy crises has increased? This book represents the first systematic attempt to explain this apparent paradox. Matthew Baum argues that the answer lies in changes to television's presentation of political information. In so doing he develops a compelling "byproduct" theory of information consumption. The information revolution has fundamentally changed the way the mass media, especially television, covers foreign policy. Traditional news has been repackaged into numerous entertainment-oriented news programs and talk shows. By transforming political issues involving scandal or violence (especially attacks against America) into entertainment, the "soft news" media have actually captured more viewers who will now follow news about foreign crises, due to its entertainment value, even if they remain uninterested in foreign policy.

Baum rigorously tests his theory through content analyses of traditional and soft news media coverage of various post-WWII U.S. foreign crises and statistical analyses of public opinion surveys. The results hold key implications for the future of American politics and foreign policy. For instance, watching soft news reinforces isolationism among many inattentive Americans. Scholars, political analysts, and even politicians have tended to ignore the soft news media and politically disengaged citizens. But, as this well-written book cogently demonstrates, soft news viewers represent a largely untapped reservoir of unusually persuadable voters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691123776
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/07/2005
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents


CHAPTER ONE: War and Entertainment 1

Appendix. Defining "Attentiveness" 15

CHAPTER TWO: Soft News and the Accidentally Attentive Public 18

Appendix. Locating Changes in Cognitive Costs and Benefits 53

CHAPTER THREE: "I Heard It on Oprah" 57

Appendix. Content Analysis Coding Form 95

CHAPTER FOUR: Bringing War to the Masses 97

Appendix 1. On Using Opinionation as an Indicator of Attentiveness 133

Appendix 2. Variable Definitions 138

Appendix 3. Statistical Tables 144

CHAPTER FIVE: Tuning Out the World Isn't as Easy as It Used to Be 156

Appendix 1. Data Sources and Variable Definitions 195

Appendix 2. Testing for Floor and Ceiling Effects 200

Appendix 3. Comparing Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War 202

Appendix 4. Statistical Tables 204

CHAPTER SIX: Rallying Round the Water Cooler 212

Appendix 1. Variable Definitions 223

Appendix 2. Statistical Tables 225

CHAPTER SEVEN: Soft News and World Views: Foreign Policy Attitudes of the Inattentive Public 229

Appendix. Statistical Tables 259

CHAPTER EIGHT: Soft News, Public Opinion, and American Foreign Policy: The Good, the Bad, and the Merely Entertaining 269

Appendix. Statistical Tables 292




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