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The Language of Liberals & Conservatives

Over the last decade, the American news media landscape has changed in concurrence with the growing variety and number of news sources. Traditional news outlets, with higher expectations of journalistic standards, are challenged for viewership by news sources with significantly more ideological spin and less accountability. The implications of this transformation are debated, but some researchers argue that it has resulted in an increasingly polarized public. One prominent example of political polarization is the case of the environmental movement, in which environmental issues—from renewable energy to climate change action and conservation—have come to be viewed by many as reflecting a liberal agenda. To better understand how issues become polarized through news media, this research draws on the latest literature and a case study analysis to examine how ideological values, issue frameworks, and rhetoric are constructed in television news reports of the same environmental events. The case study analysis compares news coverage of the Paris Climate Agreement and Dakota Access Pipeline from two ideologically-opposed networks: Fox News and MSNBC. The results of this study demonstrate the significance of language and communication in constructing ideological opinions and underscore the influence that news has on the polarization of society. The insights provided by this study encourage critical forethought among news viewers when consuming media information.