Media coverage actually fuels Islamophobia
A recent study has revealed that news exposure can lead to greater anger towards Muslims.
New Zealanders, whether liberal or conservative, showed both increased anger and reduced warmth towards Muslims if they are more avid news consumers, the research found.
The study is based on responses from 16,584 New Zealanders from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS), a 20-year longitudinal study led by co-author Chris G. Sibley of the University of Auckland.
"People tend to interpret the news in ways that fit with their pre-existing biases, seeking affirmation of their beliefs while discounting conflicting information," said lead author John Shaver from University of Otago. "New Zealand is a good test for speculation about media-induced Muslim prejudice because of its overall highly tolerant people. If anything, tolerant Kiwis might tend to reject intolerant stereotypes, reducing the effect of the media.
"However we find that the association of prejudice towards Muslims with more media exposure holds across the political spectrum, and is specific to Muslims," he added. "This indicates that it is widespread representations of Muslims in the news that is contributing to lower Muslim acceptance, rather than any partisan media bias. The media, regardless of politics, tend to publish violent stories because violence sells."
Co-author Joseph Bulbulia from Victoria University of Wellington, noted, "Sadly, there may be real-world consequences for Muslims in this country, people who encounter prejudice across their daily routines, at the workplace, and in their children's schools."
Despite the study's bleak message the authors remain optimistic: "Though un-making prejudice is difficult, we hope these results challenge the media to present fairer representations of Muslims."
The research appears in the journal PLOS ONE