Baum: Criticism of policy deemed more newsworthy than praise

April 3, 2007

April 3, 2007 — At the Shorenstein Center’s brown bag-lunch, Matt Baum, visiting associate professor of public policy at the Kennedy School, addressed the central question of what drives public opinion in times of foreign crises and wars.

Baum asserted that public opinion tends to reflect elite rhetoric — whether of politicians themselves or the mainstream media — more so than the other way around. His research reveals a strong bias toward negative press coverage of the president because in general, criticism of presidential policy is deemed more newsworthy than praise.

Given that such rhetoric tends to shape public opinion, in the context of war, Baum explained, “it can be difficult [for a president] to gain or sustain public support for military engagements abroad.”