A New Zealand study has linked listening to, watching and reading the news to greater anger towards Muslims.
Researchers from Auckland, Otago and Victoria universities used data collected from the 20-year New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, covering the responses of more than 16,000 Kiwis.
It didn’t matter whether they saw themselves as liberal or conservative – the more news they consume, the more likely New Zealanders are to show both increased anger and reduced warmth towards Muslims.
“The association of prejudice towards Muslims with more media exposure holds across the political spectrum, and is specific to Muslims,” says lead author Dr John Shaver of the University of Otago.
“This indicates that it is widespread representations of Muslims in the news that is contributing to lower Muslim acceptance, rather than any partisan media bias. The media, regardless of politics, tend to publish violent stories because violence sells.”
Prof Joseph Bulbulia of Victoria University, one of the study’s co-authors, said there are “real-world” consequences for Muslims, who already “encounter prejudice across their daily routines, at the workplace, and in their children’s schools”.
Dr Shaver says New Zealand is a good place to test how the news effects people’s prejudices, because we are “overall highly tolerant”.
“If anything, tolerant Kiwis might tend to reject intolerant stereotypes, reducing the effect of the media.”
The authors hope the study’s findings “challenge the media to present fairer representations of Muslims”.
“Un-making prejudice is difficult,” says Prof Bulbulia.
The study, ‘News exposure predicts anti-Muslim prejudice’, was published in PLOS One on Friday.