Mass Media Islam: the impact of media imagery on public opinion
For the vast majority of Australians, the mass media are a primary source of information about Islam and Muslims. The results of a telephone survey conducted with a sample of 500 people in Queensland indicate that the media have not facilitated a better understanding of Islam or its adherents. Rather, for many people reliant on the media for information, an understanding of "mass media Islam" has emerged. Due to a media tendency to focus on the extremes of Islam rather than the moderate mainstream, this understanding is more consistent with a constructed media version of Islam than with reality. Certain media sources were found to be more strongly associated with this process of image construction than others. The study also found that in spite of having limited knowledge of Islam and a reliance on the media for information, most respondents are generally accepting of Muslims as part of Australian society and do not perceive them as a threat to the country. Part of the explanation is that almost two-thirds of those surveyed recognise media representations of Islam and Muslims as a negative construction (biased, unfair, inaccurate or ill-informed) rather than an accurate, objective or fair representation. The study concludes that in spite of the media being a primary source of information, the potential for pejorative representations of Muslims to generate negative public opinion is limited to a minority of the population.
Australian Journalism Review