Science TV news exposure predicts science beliefs: Real world effects among a national sample
The authors attempt here to address a dilemma faced in recent investigation of science and health communication effects: the difficulty of assessing exposure impact in situations beyond the laboratory. Based on social representation theory, we posit that TV news exposure, especially for stories framed as relevant to the everyday lives of individual audience members, can affect people’s beliefs about science and that such exposure also should interact with interpersonal conversation to jointly predict beliefs. To assess these relationships in a real world setting, we integrated market-level and individual-level data from a science TV news project funded by the National Science Foundation and employed multilevel modeling to predict beliefs about science. This move allowed us to combine information about TV Designated Market Areas with responses from a national Internet-based survey and permitted a model that included both market-level and individual-level variables. Results indicate both main effects and interaction effects. Presence of relevant science stories in a TV market, for example, positively predicted subsequent beliefs about the general accessibility of science among audience members in that market even after controlling for individual-level variables.