Media Use and Perceived Pollution: Does a Reinforcing Spiral Exist in China?

Yimin Mao


Despite the growing concern about perceived environmental quality, less is known about how media use relates to it over time. This study investigates the longitudinal relationships between Internet preference and perceived pollution by using a three-wave nationwide sample from the China Family Panel Studies data and employing the random intercept cross-lagged panel model to separate the within-person process from between-person differences. Results do not support the reinforcing spiral model but show that an individual’s perceived pollution can significantly enhance preference of the Internet over TV and newspapers. This finding suggests that traditional media, working as the mainstream news channels in China, are losing their audiences in the process of environmental degradation. Overall, this study argues that perceived pollution facilitates individuals’ alienation from traditional media as a result of selective exposure, which may cause unexpected problems in China, like the erosion of political legitimacy.


media use, perceived pollution, Internet preference, reinforcing spiral model, random intercept cross-lagged panel model

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