The Yemen War. US-American Media’s Opinion on US Involvement in Yemen


Term Paper, 2021

44 Pages, Grade: 5.0


Excerpt

Content

Abstract

Content

1. Introduction

2. Methods
2.1. Selection of News Sources
2.2. Selection of News Articles
2.3 Assess Opinion of Article
2.3.1 Indicators of Opinion (IoO)
2.3.2 Categorisation
2.4 Flow Diagram for Categorisation
2.5 Exemplary Article
2.6 Portraying the Data with Graphs
2.7 Interpreting the Data

3. Results
3.1 High Number of Irrelevant Articles
3.2 Differences by Source
3.3 General Disapproval
3.4 Volatile Amount of Media Attention

4. Conclusion

5. Literature

6. Appendix

Abstract

Since 2015, the US has supported the coalition led by Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war, but is now limiting its support under the Biden administration. Reporting in US Media is scarce, and the conflict is being referred to as “Forgotten War” by Amnesty International. There is little research being done on US media coverage on US involvement in Yemen, which is the reason for this seminar paper. It aims to answer how the opinion of two of the biggest media outlets in the United States on US involvement in Yemen developed. This question is important as media coverage ultimately shapes voter’s opinions and therefore the foreign policy of the United States. The opinion of the online news outlets of CNN and Fox News on US involvement in Yemen are analysed, quantified, and discussed. The study found the reporting of CNN and Fox News on US involvement in Yemen to be generally disapproving with 58% respectively 38% of articles depicting a negative view of said involvement. Moreover, Fox News is 4 times more likely to publish an article supportive of US involvement in contrast to CNN (30% vs. 7.6%). In addition, the amount of reporting on US involvement in Yemen is very volatile, with both sources not publishing a single article on the subject in half a year and then publishing 25 articles in the last quarter of 2018.

Keywords: Yemen, USA, Media, Opinion, Interventionism, Fox News, CNN

1. Introduction

After six years, the war in Yemen is still ongoing. The United States started to support the coalition forces, which are led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in 20151, but is recently stepping down its support under the presidency of Joe Biden. The dynamics of the conflict are changing quickly, and so is public opinion. With Joe Biden taking up his presidency, news outlets are reporting on his plans to decrease US involvement in Yemen. However, media’s and scholar’s attention on the Yemen war was always relatively scarce. One research paper considers the interests which are involved and how the war could be resolved.2 Nevertheless, no publicly available scientific article studying US media coverage on the Yemen war or on US involvement therein could be found. Hence it is not surprising that Amnesty International refers to the conflict in Yemen as the “Forgotten War”3. This seminar paper therefore wants to shine a light on US media coverage on the US’ involvement in the Yemen war.

The first goal of this paper is to examine the online news articles of CNN and Fox News and then conclude if an article is reporting on US involvement in Yemen in a supportive, disapproving, or balanced way, or if the article is irrelevant for this analysis.

CNN and Fox News will be used, as CNN is the United States’ most relevant left-leaning news source and Fox News is its conservative counterpart and both enjoy significant traffic and popularity.4

In a second step, when all the appearing news articles have been categorised, the results will be displayed in graphics.

In a last step, the results will be discussed. The main question to be answered is the following:

“How did the reporting, of two of the biggest media outlets in the United States, on US involvement in Yemen develop?”

Subsequent questions are:

“What are the reasons for eventual changes in the opinion of reporting?”

“How did the number of articles published on US involvement in Yemen develop?”

“What are the reasons for eventual changes in the number of published articles on US involvement in Yemen?”

“In which points does the reporting from CNN and Fox News on US involvement in Yemen differ?”

“What are the reasons for eventual differences between the reporting of CNN and Fox News on US involvement in Yemen?”

2. Methods

2.1. Selection of News Sources

In a first step, one needs to select two appropriate internet news sources for further research. Ranked by their traffic, the six most popular news websites are Yahoo News, Google News, Huffington Post, CNN, New York Times, and Fox News.5 This paper does not consider Yahoo News and Google News, as they merely are news aggregators and do not produce content themselves. Huffington Post is unsuitable, as its Website does not include a search function. The page with the 4th-most traffic is CNN, which comes with a search function and a significant amount of news articles on the Yemen war and the US’ involvement therein. CNN is therefore perfectly suited for further analysis.

The two internet news sources with the next-most traffic are the New York Times and Fox News. In order to choose two out of these three sources, some information on eventual biases and credibility were used. According to the source, CNN6 has a left bias, the New York Times7 has a slight left bias, and Fox News8 has a right bias. These findings can be confirmed by a second source. A study from 2017 analysed the media coverage on Trump’s first 100 days in office and could identify significant bias from all three sources.9 Considering factual reporting, CNN and Fox News are both regarded to have a mixed history of factual reporting, whilst the New York Times’ Factual Reporting is judged to be “High”.

In order to be able to make a statement on how political biases might influence the news sources’ stand on US involvement in Yemen, this paper considers CNN and Fox News, as they both have a bias to the left, respectively to the right.

The New York Times, however, would also be an appropriate source for further research. With its slight left-leaning bias, high factual reporting and hundreds of articles on Yemen, its stance on US involvement in Yemen could be analysed thoroughly. Nevertheless, this paper will only consider CNN and Fox News, as Fox News can be seen as the right-wing pendant to CNN and the resources of this seminar paper are limited and cannot support a thorough investigation of three news sources.

In order to simplify, this paper will use the term “US Involvement in Yemen” instead of “US Intervention in the Yemen War”. Nevertheless, the first disambiguation excludes the United States’ fight against Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula and only considers the US efforts in defeating the Houthi militia in Yemen in coalition with Saudi Arabia, which makes it an appropriate key word.

2.2. Selection of News Articles

After having selected the news sources, it is necessary to select the news articles which are suitable for analysis. Therefor, the search function of CNN and Fox News was used. The key words which were searched are “US involvement in Yemen” and “US Yemen”. Unsurprisingly, the first keyword produced more relevant results. However, using two keywords makes the analysis more likely to depict a balanced result and eliminates some of the bias which results in choosing a single keyword.

Using two keywords and two sources creates four groups, namely:

- Group 1: CNN, “US Involvement in Yemen”
- Group 2: CNN, “US Yemen”
- Group 3: Fox News, “US Involvement in Yemen”
- Group 4: Fox News, “US Yemen”

In a second step, the results from the search were filtered and sorted. In CNN, the sort algorithm was changed from “Date” to “Relevance” and only articles from 01.01.2014 and younger were considered. Older articles or videos were manually sorted out.

In Fox News, two filters were applied. The first filter eliminated all videos and image collections by the selection of the content type “Article”. The second filter is the in-built date filter. The filter was adjusted to only show articles from the 01.01.2014 and younger.

2.3 Assess Opinion of Article

2.3.1 Indicators of Opinion (IoO)

In a third step, all the first 50 articles from each group were rated. In order to rate the articles, indicators of opinion were developed. Indicators of opinion are text exempts, which reveal a certain subjectivity in the text. This subjectivity can either be in favour or oppose US involvement in the Yemen War. In a text, indicators of disapproving and supportive opinion were registered and counted. From the number of indicators supportive / disapproving of US involvement in Yemen as well as their ratio, one can categorise the articles in four categories, which will be explained in the next step.

Now it is crucial to consider the Indicators of Opinion which were used for this paper.

Indicators of Opinion which imply a disapproving stance on US involvement in Yemen are the following:

- Mentioning the positive effects of an end of US involvement in Yemen
- Negatively loaded words when reporting about US involvement in Yemen
- Demanding action to end the US involvement in Yemen

Indicators of Opinion which imply a supportive stance on US involvement in Yemen are the following:

- Uncritical review of escalation of the US involvement in Yemen
- Mentioning the benefits of US involvement in Yemen
- Mentioning the downsides of ending US involvement in Yemen
- Demanding to maintain the US involvement in Yemen
- Demanding more US involvement in Yemen

2.3.2 Categorisation

The rating consists of four categories which are:

- Supportive (S)
- Supportive of US involvement in Yemen

- Balanced (B)
- Considering arguments in favour and against US involvement in Yemen without one opinion outweighing the other by at least 3:1.

- Disapproving (D)
- Disapproving of US involvement in Yemen

- Irrelevant (I)
- Not considering US involvement in Yemen

In order to categorise the news articles, now the indicators of a supportive and disapproving opinion are being counted.

If there are only IoO in favour of US involvement, the article will be considered “Supportive”. The article will also be considered “Supportive”, if the supportive IoO outweigh the disapproving IoO by at least 3:1, so at least 75%.

If there are only IoO against US involvement, the article will be considered “Disapproving”. The article will also be considered “Disapproving”, if the disapproving IoO outweigh the supportive IoO by at least 3:1, so at least 75%.

If there are IoO for and against US involvement, and one side does not outweigh the other by a ratio of at least 3 to 1, the article will be considered “Balanced”.

If there are no IoO, the article will be considered “Irrelevant”.

In order to make this process clearer, it is graphically depicted by the flow diagram on the next page.

2.4 Flow Diagram for Categorisation

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2.5 Exemplary Article

The following article serves as an example of how the methods were applied in order to categorise the news articles. Supportive IoO are marked in green and disapproving IoO are marked in red. The following article was copied entirely from CNN and there is no individual work involved besides marking the IoO.

“The Senate blocked a war powers resolution Tuesday that called for an end to US involvement in the Yemen conflict.

By a vote of 55 to 44, senators voted against a procedural motion that would have advanced the measure.

Three senators -- Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat -- pushed for the vote, complaining the US military was assisting Saudi Arabia and other countries in their ongoing conflict with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen without congressional authorization.

They argued that assistance -- including logistical support and mid-air refueling -- constituted involvement in "hostilities" and was contributing to a massive humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

"The Founding Fathers gave the power to authorize military conflicts to Congress, the branch most accountable to the people," Sanders said in a floor speech. "Not to the President but to Congress."

The Trump administration and GOP leaders opposed the move, arguing the limited military support did not require congressional signoff. They also said US involvement in Yemen was needed to counter the threat from Iran.

"Withdrawing US support would increase, not decrease, the risk of civilian casualties. And it would signal that we are not serious about containing Iran or its proxies," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote.

Defense Secretary James Mattis traveled to the Capitol to lobby senators to block the resolution .”10

In the last step, supportive and disapproving IoO are counted. In this article, there is a total of 5 disapproving IoO and 8 supportive IoO, which makes for a total of 13 IoO which equals a ratio of 62% / 38%. As the supportive IoO outweigh the disapproving ones only by 62% and not by at least 75%, this article will be considered as “Balanced”.

2.6 Portraying the Data with Graphs

In a last step, the results are portrayed. The programs which were used are Excel and www.datapine.com. Red, orange, and green colours were used to depict a disapproving (red), balanced (orange), and supportive (green) opinion of US involvement in Yemen.

2.7 Interpreting the Data

This paper argues that the coverage of CNN and Fox News can serve as a proxy for public opinion. After all, newspapers are likely to write what the consumers want to read and if a reader is unhappy with his news choice, he will switch to a source that better represents his values and stances on issues.

Of course, this is a certain simplification of a difficult topic. Limitations to this assumption are especially the following two. Firstly, the decisions of media outlets on what to publish might not solely be driven by demand but rather by a mixture of demand and elite interests. Fox News, and all other major news sources, are prone to being used for fostering the interests of wealthy elite groups. Fox News, which is owned by billionaire Murdoch, is predisposed to not only serve the reader, but also its owner. This consideration speaks against the assumption that media outlets publish what their readers want to read.

Another challenge which arises is the fact that due to avid readers seeking out newspaper articles that actively challenge their existing viewpoints, one can argue against the stances of news outlets being a valid proxy for public opinion. This paper, however, argues that due to confirmation bias, most people consume the news articles which best suit their opinion. This argument then renders the counterargument to using media coverage as a proxy for public opinion as irrelevant.

Nevertheless, the first argument of not only demand but also elite interests being relevant for the decision on what kind of articles to publish, is still deemed significant and therefore portrays a vulnerability in this analysis. Further research on how elite interests influence media coverage is especially required in an US-American context.

3. Results

3.1 High Number of Irrelevant Articles

Not exactly a result but still worth mentioning is the fact that the search results for “US Involvement in Yemen” and “US Yemen” produced irrelevant articles in 37% of cases, with “US Involvement in Yemen” leading to more relevant articles. As all the 50 articles (4 times 50 for each keyword and source) which appeared under these search results were analysed thoroughly, it makes sense to include the irrelevant figures for the sake of completeness.

Irrelevant articles mostly contained information about the United States’ fight against Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or they reported on the death of Mr. Khashoggi and its repercussions. These articles were not considered, as they are not concerned about US involvement in the Yemen war against the Houthi militia. General reports on the situation in Yemen were also not considered, if they did not inform on US involvement in Yemen.

Despite a relatively high number of irrelevant articles, the data is able to distinguish specific patterns of reporting, which will be explained in the next paragraph.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1:Total Results of the Analysis of Opinion. Data & Graph by Myself

3.2 Differences by Source

The analysis found, that the stances on US involvement in Yemen differ significantly by source. A supportive stance on US involvement in Yemen was 4 times likelier to be found on Fox News than on CNN, with Fox News publishing 18 supportive articles and CNN doing so in 5 cases. The slight discrepancy to the aforementioned factor of 4 can be explained by the slighly lower percentage of relevant articles on Fox News, which can possibly be accounted for by a less sophisticated search algorithm.

[...]


1 (Ward, 2021)

2 (Kleemann, 2019)

3 (Amnesty International, n.d.)

4 (eBusiness, 2021)

5 (eBusiness, 2021)

6 (Media Bias / Fact Check, 2021a)

7 (Media Bias / Fact Check, 2021b)

8 (Media Bias / Fact Check, 2021c)

9 (Patterson, 2017)

10 (Barrett, 2018)

Excerpt out of 44 pages

Details

Title
The Yemen War. US-American Media’s Opinion on US Involvement in Yemen
College
University of Luzern
Course
Gewaltsame Konflikte: Ursachen und Erklärungsansätze
Grade
5.0
Author
Year
2021
Pages
44
Catalog Number
V1139768
ISBN (eBook)
9783346517456
ISBN (Book)
9783346517463
Language
English
Notes
Die Note 6.0 ist die Bestnote in der Schweiz.
Tags
International Politics, World Politics, Weltpolitik, Security Policy, Sicherheitspolitik, Yemen, Media, Medien, Fox, Fox News, CNN, Hawkish, Dovish, Intervention, Air Strikes, Luftschläge, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabien, Coalition, Koalition, Human Rights, Menschenrechte, Public Support, Unterstützung, Opinion, Meinung, Sources, Quellen, Bias, Supportive, Disapproving, Television, Fernsehen, Media Attention, Medienaufmerksamkeit
Quote paper
Nathanael Schabrun (Author), 2021, The Yemen War. US-American Media’s Opinion on US Involvement in Yemen, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1139768

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