A study by Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar) has shown that religion does not change perception on information irrespective of its source.
The results were shared by visiting assistant professor Alexis Antoniades at the first in a series of faculty seminars by SFS-Qatar’s International Economics (IECO) major faculty for the new academic year of
The seminar was titled ‘Media Branding, Background, and Perception.’ The study involved asking a group of 600 individuals in Qatar to comment on a nearly 3-minute Al Jazeera clip from 2006 on the Danish cartoons controversy.
“However, an element of deception was added when for half the participants we swapped the Al Jazeera logo for CNN’s in the beginning of the video and referred to the survey as the CNN survey,” said professor
“What we found out was that religion does not change our perception on information whether from Al Jazeera versus CNN purely as the result of branding.
“Surprisingly, when we turn to the branding effect we find that faculty’s perception changes when the group thinks that the information comes from CNN instead of Al Jazeera,” he added.
Branding also seemed to affect Qataris and individuals who attended a segregated university, he said.
“Using the data, we can also build the profile of Al Jazeera and CNN viewers, and find that more than 60% of the survey participants do not consider Al Jazeera or CNN as their main source of information. This result points to the importance of social media as an alternative source of information in Qatar, and more general in the Middle East,” he added.
Data was collected from community boards, through networking, at shopping malls and random cafés in Qatar.
Mean responses were then quantitatively analysed from Strongly Disagree (score 1), Disagree (2), Indifferent (3), Agree (4), and Strongly Agree (5). On the question of “I support the 2006 calls for boycotts against Danish products” for example, the average response was 3.1 (close to indifferent).
On the question of being unbiased, the average response for Al Jazeera was 2.9, while it was 2.5 for CNN.
When asked ‘The reporter tried to give an unbiased response’ the average answer for faculty who took the Al Jazeera survey was much higher, and statistically different, from the average answer given by the faculty who took the CNN survey, even though the clip was identical.
Similarly, the response to the question ‘The reporter tried to give an unbiased response’ showed that again the faculty who took the Al Jazeera clip agreed more with this statement than those who took the
“Consequently, in this setting, branding does affect the perception of faculty. However, the study failed to find that branding affects the perception of people based on their religion,” professor Antoniades said.
The study was undertaken as part of the Undergraduate Research Experience Programme project funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, with participation by student Tarah Makarem.
She contributed to the development of the proposal, the design of the survey, survey administration, and the analysis of the results.
Makarem also presented the findings at the 9th International Conference of Communication & Mass Media in Athens in May.
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