The Knowledge Gap Hypothesis Across Modality: Differential Acquisition of Knowledge From Television News, Newspapers, and News Websites

Mark Boukes, Rens Vliegenthart


This study investigates how Tichenor’s hypothesized “knowledge gap” is affected differently by different modalities of news media. Measuring the acquisition of new surveillance facts in subsequent survey waves, we modeled how strongly people’s level of knowledge grew over time and how this growth was affected by news consumption. Results show that news media consumption (i.e., television news, newspapers, and news websites), across the board, has a positive effect on how much knowledge is acquired. Next, we examined how these learning effects are conditional on education level. Theorizing about how modality impacts learning effects, we confirm that television news especially benefits the acquisition of knowledge by the lower educated. Results also show that learning due to newspaper consumption does not depend on education level. Similarly, the positive effect of news website consumption was equally strong among low and highly educated citizens.


knowledge gap, opportunities–motivation–ability framework, learning effects, panel survey, news media, modality

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