Elite Hostility Toward Journalism, News Trust, and the Mediating Role of Fear for Motivating Public Support of News Media

Jason T. Peifer, Alexis Haskell


This experiment extends the research on the relationship between elite hostility toward the press and public support for journalism. Using a national U.S.-based sample (N = 235), the project analyzes how an online “mash-up” video of hostile rhetoric and behavior attributed to multiple politicians elicited emotions of anger and fear as conditioned upon news trust. Analyses also examined the extent to which these threat-based emotions, in turn, promoted increased intentions to support the press. Results confirm that exposure to elite hostility toward the press can indirectly prompt intentions to support the press, showcasing fear as the operative negative emotion for propelling support for the press. Furthermore, this study’s modeling of elite hostility’s indirect effect on press support is shown to be strongest among those with relatively high in trust in their preferred news sources. The study findings have implications for maintaining and building public support for journalism in the contemporary media landscape.


elite cues, press hostility, news trust, freedom of press, press advocacy, emotion

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