How Rally-Round-the-Flag Effects Shape Trust in the News Media: Evidence from Panel Waves before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPolitical Communication. 2023, 40 (2), 201-221. 10.1080/10584609.2023.2168322
In this study, we extend the literature on the rally ‘round the flag phenomenon, that is, that international crises tend to cause an increase in citizens’ approval of political institutions. We advance this literature and highlight its relevance for political communication research in three ways: 1) by theorizing and empirically testing two arguments for why rally effects should extend to trust in the news media on the institutional level, 2) by providing empirical evidence on how rally effects on trust in the media develop over time during an international crisis, and 3) by theorizing and testing the conditions under which rally effects on media trust are more likely to occur by studying heterogeneous effects. Through a panel design with a pre-crisis baseline of Norwegian citizens’ trust in news media, we find evidence to suggest that the compound effect of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis caused a long-lasting increase in trust in the news media in Norway, and that the degree of increase varied by citizens’ education and whether they belonged to a “high-risk” group. We also provide evidence to suggest that rally effects on news media trust are contingent on how important the news media is as a source of information about the crisis and the “trust nexus” between media trust and political trust. These insights extend our current understanding of how times of crisis affect trust in the news media.