The Effects of Social Identity on the Perception of Racism in U.S.
Crime News Briefs
Omotayo Banjo, Michelle Early, and Earlissa Granger (Graduate Students)
This paper is based on a project from a graduate research methods course.
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
Schema theories, such as hostile media and confirmatory bias theories
argue that perception of news media are influenced by prior beliefs and
personal values. Journalists’ methods of framing crime stories have
also been shown to affect how audiences interpret media messages, as well
as determine the relevance of the story. In this study, we consider the
role that social identity plays in how individuals interpret crime news.
Employing scales that measure three forms of social identity: 1) mainstream
identity (Western European culture), 2) Black identity and 3) collective
identity, the present study examines the relationship between social identification
and perceptions of racism in print news media.
H1: Students who most identify with mainstream identity will be less
likely to perceive news bias.
H2a: Black students who score higher on collective identity will be more
likely to perceive news bias than students with lower scores on collective
H2b: White students who score higher on collective identity will be less
likely to perceive news bias than students who have lower scores on collective
H3: Regardless of race, those who score higher on Black identity will
be more likely to perceive news bias than those who have lower scores
on Black identity.
169 graduate and undergraduate Penn State students responded to a 20-item
online survey using scales that measured mainstream identity, collective
identity and Black identity. Participants were then assigned to one of
two conditions. In the experimental condition, participants were exposed
to a crime news brief manipulated to be implicitly racist. The control
group was exposed to a brief that was unbiased. After reading these briefs
along with two other neutral briefs, participants were asked to rate the
level of bias they perceived in each brief.
Overall results showed that people perceived more bias in implicitly
racist news than in other news.
H1: Supported. Participants, who more strongly identified with mainstream
identity, regardless of ethnicity, were less likely to perceive bias in
the crime news brief.
H2a: Not supported. Although findings indicate that to some degree Black
students were more likely to perceive bias in a race neutral brief, the
findings were not statistically significant.
H2b: Not supported. Unexpectedly, our findings for hypothesis 2 were
reversed. White participants in the experimental condition, who scored
high on the collective identity scale were more likely to perceive bias
in the crime news brief.
H3: Not supported. Participants who scored high on the Black identity
scale, regardless of ethnicity, were more likely to perceive bias in a
crime news brief. However, the findings were not statistically significant.
Social identity has the potential to influence whether or not we recognize
racism in print news, and, implicitly, in society. This may have serious
implications for public opinion and public response to social and racial
issues presented in the media.