Mass media and the attribution of blame for globalization

Abstract

Much is known about the domestic politics of globalization, but political scientists have largely ignored one critical link between the international economy and many individuals around the world: mass media. Considering the likely effects of mass media on public perceptions of responsibility, this article develops an argument about the effects of mass media on individuals’ blame attributions for the adjustment costs of economic globalization. The theory is tested on survey data from France in 1992–1993. The evidence suggests that mass media may shift the public’s blame attributions away from the government and toward external, international forces.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See Supplementary Information for the text of the survey questions and summary statistics.

  2. 2.

    Respondents were asked to identify national problems in an open-ended fashion; their answers were then coded by the interviewer and into the general problem types listed here. To create the binary variable which measures whether the respondent sees some aspect of international economic openness as a top problem, I coded respondents as 1 if they identified one of the following issues as one of the “second most important problems”: “Intl economic competition,” “EC-92, economic integration,” “Foreign trade,” “Ratification of Maastricht,” and “Maastricht Treaty.” All other respondents were coded as 0 for the variable OpennessProblem.

  3. 3.

    Because of space constraints and for ease of interpretation in light of the hypotheses under consideration, I consider here only the difference between blaming the government and blaming international forces, omitting respondents who placed the blame on “society” or “people like you and me.” However, the results obtained here are robust to alternative specifications in which the dependent variable takes a value of 1 for respondents who blame international forces and 0 for respondents who select any of the other possible targets of blame. See Supplementary Information for results from alternative specifications.

  4. 4.

    In the first wave of the survey, so many respondents identified unemployment as the top problem facing France that a question was added to measure what respondents identified as the “second most important problem facing France today.” All the analyses here, including the variables measuring blame attributions and evaluations of government handling, refer to this second most important problem.

  5. 5.

    Numerical model results are included in Supplementary Information. All models were estimated with the Zelig package in R (Imai et al. 2009).

  6. 6.

    “Typical” refers to mean values on the numerical independent variables and the reference levels for categorical variables, i.e., in this case, a non-urban, non-university-educated, non-white-collar, non-left-party male at the mean age and with mean levels of political interest, who identifies the second top problem as “Economic” and not related to economic openness.

  7. 7.

    It could be the case that individuals with cosmopolitan outlooks are more interested in mass media because of their greater interest in global issues, in which case mass media exposure could be endogenous to knowledge of issues surrounding economic globalization. Although the survey data used in this paper provide no measure of overall interest in international affairs, the analyses below control for the best predictors of cosmopolitanism: education, class, and general interest in politics. Because these are the best predictors of cosmopolitanism, it seems unlikely that observing an independent effect of mass media exposure would be spurious due to this particular risk of endogeneity.

  8. 8.

    See Supplementary Information.

  9. 9.

    See Supplementary Information.

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Correspondence to Justin Murphy.

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Murphy, J. Mass media and the attribution of blame for globalization. Fr Polit 15, 443–459 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-017-0032-y

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Keywords

  • Media
  • Globalization
  • Blame
  • Public opinion