People’s interpretations of media reports about crimes may be biased by their motivations to construct and protect their worldviews and, relatedly, by criminals’ group membership. Two large-scale experiments (Ns = 248 and 1,115) investigated how American adults interpret reports of crimes committed by either a Christian or Muslim, and how these interpretations depend on political ideology. Results show liberals attributing crimes more to religion for Christian rather than Muslim offenders, with the opposite effect for conservatives. Importantly, these biases also influenced how people communicated the news report to others. Additionally, evidence suggests that attitudes toward Islam and not toward Muslims may explain these effects. Implications for how political ideology affects interpretation and communication of media portrayals of Muslims are discussed.
Habib, et al., 2019