This article assesses the potential for US news coverage of foreign affairs to influence US public opinion about foreign countries during the latter part of 1989 and early 1990, a time of dramatic changes in central Europe. The study draws on two sources of data: content analysis of US network news and wire service coverage of nine countries (West Germany, East Germany, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland, Great Britain, France, Japan, and Israel) over a six month period, and a nationally representative survey of 1,117 US adults which measured opinions about these countries, conducted in early 1990. The study shows that there is an important relationship between the visibility of foreign countries in TV news and US public opinion about these countries. TV is more important than newspapers for influencing public opinion about foreign countries. And attention to foreign affairs news, rather than simple exposure to news, best predicts general liking of a country. Finally, attention to television news coverage had a positive and significant influence on sympathy with West and East Germany in 1990, even if one had German friends, relatives or ancestors, or had visited Europe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science