Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Media Variables

A coupla days ago I discussed the ANES 2008-2009 panel data and its political knowledge variables. I tried yesterday to discuss the media variables but twice Blogger decided not to save or publish anything I wrote. So I'm trying again today.

While the political knowledge items are full of promise for analysis, the media variables ... not so much.

There are four questions, all following this format:

During a typical week, how many days do you watch news on TV, not including sports?

So the response alternatives range from 0 to 7 days. The four questions cover news on TV, radio, the Internet, and "a printed newspaper." There are a few things to like here. Using "printed" is smart. Helps respondents differentiate between the dead-tree and online version. And the "not including sports" is smart too.

Now time for the but. You knew it was coming.

TV news is too general in a fragmented media market. So is radio. Respondents may confuse NPR and Rush Limbaugh and a fragment of news caught every day between Led Zeppelin songs. And mere exposure? Attention is more important, especially when studying the effects of TV news.

ANES has a tradition of mediocre media items, though there have been individual years where they surprised me, especially when a list of entertainment programming that allowed for some interesting tests to be conducted. From a media variable perspective, these are disappointing.

In a perfect world, ANES and Pew get together and marry the ANES policy and knowledge items with Pew's brilliant media questions.

No comments: