How Media Frames of Economic Inequality Affect Political and Social Attitudes

About this Session


Thu. 07.04.'22 10:00



Speaker: Sonja Zmerli Abstract: This paper explores whether and to what extent newspaper articles’ frames of economic inequality affect individuals’ political and social attitudes. Based on exclusive experimental data collected in January 2019, at the height of the French ‘Yellow Vests’ movement, and drawn from a representative French online panel of 2,600 respondents, this study tests the impact of the wording and images of three different original French newspaper articles. The selected articles cover the effects of the representations of factual knowledge about inequality in France compared to Europe. They also go into the justice principle of ‘need’ either in terms of ‘undeserving’ refugee welfare beneficiaries or of a ‘humanizing’ individual story of welfare allowances not taken up. The empirical findings suggest that political and social trust as well as citizens’ perceptions of inequality are affected by the tested frames, while their redistributional preferences are not – and that these effects differ across the dependent variables. While factual knowledge is conducive to trust in representative institutions, framing refugees as ‘undeserving’ diminishes trust in impartial institutions, yet evoking empathy strengthens this type of political trust. Nevertheless, no clear-cut effects evoked by the display of images could be revealed.