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Exploring the Relationship Between the Political Leaning of Newspapers and Their Portrayal of Adults with Anxiety Disorders

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People form impressions of others they see, have described to them or encounter in the media (Schneider et al, 1979). It is common to save and store information about people, places or events as schemas. A schema is a defined and rational set of related thoughts and beliefs. When a schema is activated the mind fills in the missing details to have a better understand of the happenings (Hogg and Vaughan 2010). Schemas are sometimes related to stereotypes. Stereotypes are simplified images of members of a group. They are usually based on clearly visible differences between the group and the outsiders (Zebrowitz, Voinescu, Collins 1996). According to Buss (1977), outgroups are social groupings that are different from the individual’s own social group. Stereotypes commonly but not necessarily are accompanied by prejudice towards the members of the category in question (Tajfel, H. (1982). Information for developing schemas is coming from a variety of sources. People can simply share their schemas with others, or they can read about them. The most typical way to acquire or modify a schema is through various media (Schneider et al 1979).

Newspaper outlets are a major source of information for those motivated to seek information as they are highly informative in the realm of public affairs (Chaffee and Kanihan, 1977) This statement extends to the online newspaper outlets which provide modern and easy access to information for the public. It is easy to think that the political stance of a newspaper does not matter if the article is not about a political discussion. Previous research indicates that there is an association on how liberal and conservative newspapers portray different topics. Higher conservatism is linked to greater negative or anti-equality attitudes (Pratto et al., 1994), (Paxton and Mughan, 2006). By portraying particular groups in society in a certain way, newspapers with a political stance can normalise certain views and attitudes towards that group.

Generally, individuals seek a political grouping that validates their experience and views. If the newspaper shares the reader’s beliefs, they might sympathise more with the political party (Feezell 2016). This study is conducted to expand our understanding of how people obtain political knowledge in online mainstream media and how much impact the media has on influencing attitudes regarding certain groups in society. The group chosen for this research is the anxiety disorder sufferers.

Attitudes and beliefs about mental illness are shaped by personal knowledge about it, knowing and interacting with someone living with mental illness, cultural stereotypes, media stories (Choudhry, Ming, Khan, 2016). The general public sees adults with anxiety disorders in a neutral, often more negative light. Many of them fail to recognise that this group suffers for a mental illness or they believe this illness is over-exaggerated and the sufferers simply do not want to take responsibility for their actions, and they blame it on their disorder. According to the survey conducted by Reavley and Jorm (2011), many people sometimes even the ones with the illness think It’s a sign of personal weakness.

The aim of this report is to test an association between the political stance of online UK based mainstream newspaper outlets and their portrayal of the adults suffering from anxiety disorders.

The hypothesis of this report is that there will be a significant association between the political leaning of a newspaper and the way they portray adults who suffer from anxiety disorders.

The null hypothesis of this report is that there will not be a significant association between the political leaning of a newspaper and the way they portray adults who suffer from anxiety disorders.

Design

This is a deductive frequency content analysis study, using both quantitative and qualitative style coding elements in which the data was collected from online newspaper outlets.

The data was categorised by two variables. The first variable was how the newspaper outlets portray anxiety disorders. The two categories were either a positive portrayal or a negative portrayal. The second variable was the political stance of the newspaper. The two options are conservative or liberal stances. The design was given to test for an association between these two variables.

Data Collection

Overall, sixteen online newspaper articles were collected, examined and coded. They were specially collected to be an equal amount of both right and left-leaning political stances. 36 units from these articles were chosen to be proof for either the positive or negative portrayals. A unit here is considered to be a piece of text which can be understood it its own without the need to be referenced to other units. The sizes of the units varied between sentences to paragraphs within an article.

Data Collected

The data was sourced from various mainstream UK based online newspaper articles which are available for the public without subscription or logins needed to access the data (or where logins were required these were paid through university subscriptions). The data was collected from an equal amount of politically left-leaning newspapers such as: The Independent and The Guardian, and from politically right-leaning newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph. The ethical issues considered in collecting and preparing the data included the issue of anonymity. Giving consent was not an issue as the newspaper articles in the public domain are under the expectation that their work might be analysed.

Data Analysis Process

A content analysis was conducted on the data collected. The collected data has been placed in the data collection sheet. Each unit then has been arranged by the political stance of the newspaper outlets with the guidance of the coding manual. There were to categories regarding the political stance of the newspaper; conservative (right-leaning) and liberal (left-leaning). After the articles had been arranged, units were chosen and placed in the coding summary document. Overall, 36 units than were coded in two categories. The first category included the units that showed a positive portrayal of anxiety disorders while the second category included the negatively portrayed units. The positively portrayed units were describing positive qualities and actions of the out-group or suggested that there was no link found between them and negative activities. The negatively portrayed units suggested the outgroup’s higher rate of negative or undesirable activity and describing their negative qualities. The summarised, coded data was placed in an SPSS data file in order to run the Chi-square analysis.

Results

Deductive frequency content analysis was applied in this study. This approach involved coding the collected articles in terms of whether they expressed positive or negative portrayals of anxiety disorder sufferers. The aim was to test for an association between the attitude and the political leaning of the newspapers they were collected from.

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The two most frequent combinations the 36 units were: the liberal-leaning outlet and positive portrayal combination and the conservative-leaning outlet and negative portrayal combination.

The Pearson chi-square analysis was applied to examine whether there was an association between the two categorical variables.

According to the test, there was no significant association between political leaning of the newspaper outlet and the portrayal of anxiety disorders as the frequencies were χ2(1) = 2,86, p>.05.

Conservative-leaning was associated with greater expression of negative portrayals as 72% of all those units coded in conservative-leaning sources provided negative portrayals (only 28% positive) while 44% of those coded in liberal-leaning sources provided negative portrayals of anxiety disorder sufferers (56% were positive).

Discussion

Begins with a statement of which of the alternate or null hypotheses is being accepted/rejected, and reference to any association found/not found. Finding then compared/linked back to previous research reviewed.

On the basis of the Chi-square test, the alternate hypothesis was rejected, and the null hypothesis was accepted, that is: that there is no significant association between the political leaning of a newspaper and the way they portray adults who suffer from anxiety disorders.

The findings of this is report do not relate to the previous conclusion that there could be an association on how liberal and conservative newspapers portray different topics. Finding no significant association between portrayal and newspapers with political stances means that conservative or liberal newspaper outlets do not portray adults with anxiety disorders either in a negative or positive way. Therefore, they do not influence on how society’s views are formed towards anxiety disorders.

In contrast to what Paxton et al (2006) and Pratto et al (1994) found this finding only mildly supports that higher conservatism is linked to greater negative or anti-equality attitudes. The analysis suggested that conservative-leaning outlets expressed more negative portrayals with 72% being a negative portrayal of anxiety disorders. Liberal outlets, however, displayed an equal amount of both positive and negative portrayals with a bit of the positive portrayals on the top with 56%. This finding might support the targeting of an audience by the newspaper outlet as generally, individuals seek a political grouping that validates their experience and views. If the newspaper shares the reader’s beliefs, they might sympathise more with the political party (Feezell 2016).

The reason more people might see adults with anxiety disorders in a negative light is that many times outsiders fail to realise that they have a real mental illness. Many consider anxiety disorder as a personal weakness rather than a mental health problem. Therefore, they think it should not be medicated and that the sufferers could snap out of it if they tried hard enough (Reavley and Jorm (2011). These are common stigmas around mental disorders which can cause the sufferer not to seek help and support because of the negative judgment. In effect many of the sufferers consider their illness to be just a negative characteristic than accepting that they have an illness.

To conclude, based on the study’s results that there is no significant association between political leaning of a newspaper and the way they portray adults who suffer from anxiety disorders but there is still, however, a notable number of negative portrayals among conservative newspaper outlets. Therefore, a deeper study could be conducted investigating the association between the amount of negative portrayals and the conservative political stance of a newspaper. another more specific research could be made by looking at the mental health disorders and their positive or negative portrayal in society or in the view of the ones suffering from mental illnesses.

During the conduction of this study, there were several method limitations. Looking at future studies there could be improvements made regarding sources, time frame and research methods. The time frame for conducting this study was no more than eight weeks, therefore for future research, it could be advised to have a longer timeframe to be able to do a deeper study in the subject.

The researcher’s background had no effect while conducting this study as being neutral was a priority while coding the data.

The data for this study was collected from UK based mainstream newspaper outlets which were either in print once or still can be found in physical form. To conduct this study, other types of qualitative data could have been used such as personal interviews or surveys. The findings of this study cannot be transferred to other types of media like television or online platforms as the results may differ. Future research could look at regional or worldwide newspapers as well as online platforms and online newspapers to gain a wider understanding of the subject. The data was collected from public domains that were subscription free. For a more qualitative and deeper study, it would be a good decision to look at data coming from a bigger range of sources that may need a subscription and are not available for the public.

To expand our understanding better in the subject there could be other specific studies made in the direction of if anyone has changed their belief thanks to a positive or negative portrayal of the outgroup. This could be conducted by qualitative research interviews.

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Exploring the Relationship Between the Political Leaning of Newspapers and Their Portrayal of Adults with Anxiety Disorders. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/exploring-the-relationship-between-the-political-leaning-of-newspapers-and-their-portrayal-of-adults-with-anxiety-disorders/
“Exploring the Relationship Between the Political Leaning of Newspapers and Their Portrayal of Adults with Anxiety Disorders.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/exploring-the-relationship-between-the-political-leaning-of-newspapers-and-their-portrayal-of-adults-with-anxiety-disorders/
Exploring the Relationship Between the Political Leaning of Newspapers and Their Portrayal of Adults with Anxiety Disorders. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/exploring-the-relationship-between-the-political-leaning-of-newspapers-and-their-portrayal-of-adults-with-anxiety-disorders/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Exploring the Relationship Between the Political Leaning of Newspapers and Their Portrayal of Adults with Anxiety Disorders [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/exploring-the-relationship-between-the-political-leaning-of-newspapers-and-their-portrayal-of-adults-with-anxiety-disorders/
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