Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Can We Do Away with Media Exposure Questions

I blogged earlier about the difficulties of getting a proposal approved because I relied on exposure to the news, a concept some find problematic due to perceived (though to me, unconvincing) measurement issues.

This raises at least a couple of questions:
  • Can we do away with media exposure questions?
  • And, if so, what the hell do we use as an alternative?
Exposure versus attention has received its fair share of attention, but we can't really measure attention without first establishing exposure.  The two are intertwined.  The real problem, to me, is the broad nature of the questions often found in large surveys such as ANES.  These items are historical.  They've been asked more or less the same way for decades, and by continuing to do so, we have some ability to look at changes over time.  For an example, see this table.

But to ask broadly about television news exposure, with no difference drawn between Fox News or PBS, raises all kinds of concerns. 

The issue for me is, do we now combine ideology or partisanship with media exposure ... that is, if we're not going to get specific about where people get their news?  We know from recent research, my own and that of others, that there is a partisan migration going on, especially in cable news, as conservatives shift to Fox and liberals to MSNBC and those somewhere in the middle still watching CNN.  The same is probably true, to a lesser degree, across the news spectrum, particularly on the Internet.

So if we not going to get specific in our news questions, and that's what I tried to do in my modest proposal, then perhaps it's time to combine ideology and news exposure and basically assume likeminded folks seek out likeminded news. 

We are obligated, then, to create interaction terms -- to put it in a regression frame -- for all media and partisanship/ideology measures.  The short answer to this is, ugh, ugly, and a pain when it comes to creating all these dummy terms.  But in the long term, save more specificity in our news media questions, this may be the only logical answer.

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