- Reconciling passive and motivated learning: the saturation-conditional impact of media coverage and motivation on political information
- Communication Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 41 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
Representative democracy requires that citizens express informed political opinions, and in order to inform their opinions, they must have the opportunity to acquire relevant facts from the media. In view of increasing audience segmentation, such opportunity may vary according to how widely political information diffuses across the various sources available in a media environment. However, it remains uncertain how differences in information saturation correspond with differences in information acquisition. Drawing on data from a rolling cross-sectional survey with nearly 60 waves and media content analyses spanning four European countries, this article examines whether a wider availability of information in collective media environments facilitates acquisition of such information. It also specifies the conditions under which this effect differs for people with different levels of learning motivation. Using a multilevel model, we find the media environment to be a remarkably powerful force in equipping people with political information. We also find that better-motivated citizens initially benefit disproportionately from the availability of information, yet motivation-based discrepancies in learning disappear entirely when media coverage becomes more prevalent.
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