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Surprising News: How the Media Affect—and Do Not Affect—Politics

Kenneth Newton
Surprising News: How the Media Affect—and Do Not Affect—Politics
ISBN: 978-1-62637-766-0
ISBN: 978-1-62637-770-7
ISBN: 978-1-62637-825-4
2019/271 pages/LC: 2018053714
"First-rate in every respect.... perceptive, pithy, up-to-date, and written in a clear-sighted, and even charming, style. If Newton has his way, the old hypodermic model of media power will have to be replaced by Newton's "garden hose" model—a garden hose so worn and cracked that 'it leaks and squirts water in all directions.' Surprising news? Yes, and a wonderfully instructive, indispensable book." —Michael Schudson, Columbia University

"Highly recommended."—Choice

"What is the role of the news media in a democracy? Addressing this issue, Ken Newton marshals a wide range of evidence from diverse contexts and disciplines to provide critical insights…. Dispelling conventional myths, and providing careful scrutiny of the evidence, Surprising News is a tour de force."—Pippa Norris, Harvard University and University of Sydney

"An impressive study that brings a new and refreshing perspective to the study of the relation between media and politics.... Newton enters into a lively dialogue with some of the key authors in this field."—Marc Hooghe, Leuven University

"Would I buy it? Absolutely! It is well argued, broadly supported and highly enlightening."— Rudiger Schmitt-Beck, University of Mannheim

"This important new book draws on decades of research to address a fundamental and highly controversial question of our time: How do the media affect democratic politics? Ken Newton offers a wise, subtle, and skeptical view of media effects, based on an encyclopedic review of thousands of studies from many different disciplines and countries." —Robert Putnam, Harvard University


What role do the media play in influencing political life and shaping public opinion and behavior? Do they support—or undermine—our democratic beliefs and institutions? Claims about the media’s powerful influence are frequently made, but where is the evidence?

Kenneth Newton scrutinizes these complex questions. Recognizing that differing forms of political communication have differing effects on differing people around the world, Newton goes further to ask why this occurs, and how. The answers that he presents in Surprising News offer a deeply researched, enlightening challenge to conventional wisdom in this age of fake news, post-truth, and claims about how the new digital media have transformed politics.


Kenneth Newton is professor emeritus of comparative politics at the University of Southampton. He is the coauthor (with Jan W. Van Deth) of Foundations of Comparative Politics.


  • Surprising News.
  • Belief Preservation.
  • Partisans and Party Identifiers.
  • When the Public Is Not Buying.
  • Personal Knowledge and Experience.
  • Political Talk.
  • Trust and Distrust.
  • Diffuse and Subconscious Media Effects.
  • Public Service and Commercial Television.
  • Hyperpluralism in the Digital Age.
  • Audience Pluralism
  • Explaining Media Political Effects.
  • Postscript: What Politicians Should Understand.