Just Published! Trust in Government and Media Slant in Europe


Trust in Government and Media Slant
A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Media Effects in Twenty-Seven European Countries

International Journal of Press/Politics (Journal IF: 1.872)

Co-author: Vincenzo Memoli

Replication material: andreaceron.com/publications

Acknowledgments: Sergio Splendore for sharing information and data on newspapers and public television

What is worth remembering:

  • Media are not equal to each other
  • The ideology of the audience can be used as a proxy for the ideology of the media outlet
  • Consumption of antigovernment newspapers is associated with lower trust
  • Consumption of public service broadcaster (PSB) is associated with higher trust
  • Media act like ‘echo-chambers’ that reinforce preexisting attitudes
  • Cross-cutting information barely alters trust in government (no hostile media effect)
  • Cognitive dissonance? Counter-attitudinal behavior can shape preferences, though only when there are no external justifications (e.g., buying antigovernment newspapers has a cost so you change your mind; watching pro-government PSB is free or subject to compulsory tax so no effect)
  • Implications for (academic and nonacademic) debate on the polarizing effect of cable television (watching cable TV has a cost so you can change your mind due to cognitive dissonance!)


Several scholars investigate the link between news media and political attitudes of citizens, showing that media exposure affects confidence in political institutions. Beginning from this perspective, we analyze trust in government in twenty-seven European countries, testing the interactive relationship between citizens’ policy views and media slant. Under the assumption that news media bias content in the direction of their audiences or are compliant with potential influence exerted by the government, we use Eurobarometer survey data to measure the effects of the ideological slant of newspapers and public television on trust in government. Our results show that the pro- or antigovernment slant of media outlets interacts with the individual ideological views of each citizen and confirm that media act like “echo-chambers” that reinforce preexisting attitudes. Conversely, the consumption of counter-attitudinal information barely alters trust in government nor does it produce hostile media effects. We also find a slight difference between newspaper readers and public service broadcaster (PSB) users, which seems related to mechanisms of cognitive dissonance.