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Americans favor media self-censorship of beheading photos, UD survey finds

A national UD survey finds most Americans say news and social media should not show images of ISIS beheadings.

2:39 p.m., Jan. 30, 2015--A national survey by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication (CPC) has found that a large majority of Americans say the news media should not show images of beheadings by the organization ISIS.

Seventy percent of those surveyed opposed such media images, while 26 percent said the news media should show them. The telephone survey of 900 people was conducted in October, shortly after ISIS released videos of several Western hostages being beheaded by the group.

This month, ISIS claimed to have beheaded a Japanese hostage.

Of those surveyed, 60 percent also said that social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should block access to images of beheadings, while 36 percent said access should not be blocked.

“These results suggest Americans support self-censorship by the news media when it come to these images,” said Paul Brewer, associate director of the CPC, who supervised the study. “They also suggest Americans support social media sites taking on active roles as gatekeepers of what people should and shouldn’t see about public affairs.” 

The study found that support for self-censorship of beheading images is lower among younger people and people who describe themselves as less religious. Older and more religious people are more supportive of media taking steps to prevent such images from being seen.

About the study

The National Agenda Opinion Project research was funded by the CPC and the William P. Frank Foundation. It was supervised by Brewer, who also is a professor in the departments of communication and of political science and international relations.

Telephone interviews were conducted with a representative sample of 900 adults. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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A national survey by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication (CPC) has found that a large majority of Americans say the news media should not show images of beheadings by ISIS.

A national survey by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication (CPC) has found that a large majority of Americans say the news media should not show images of beheadings by the organization ISIS.

1/30/2015
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  • Center for Political Communication
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  • University of Delaware
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  • Department of Communication
  • Department of Political Science and International Relations