How web comments affect perceptions of political interviews and journalistic control.

Abstract: People are often exposed to polarized viewpoints in web comment sections. Inspired by attribution theory and framing theory, this article tests the effects of comments that frame a politician or a journalist as triggering evasiveness in a media interview. We compare attributions ascribing deceptiveness to the politician versus external attributions implicating the media situation. In the first experiment, comment sections affect perceptions of evasiveness, credibility of the politician relative to the journalist, and people’s attitudes toward the politician and journalist. A second study replicates, and voters type comments which largely reflect the comments to which they were exposed. Also, perceptions of external control by the journalist affect perceptions of the politician. The article extends attribution theory and framing theory via commonly encountered online exposure which affects people’s perceptions of politicians as deceptive relative to their journalistic arbiters.