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Political polarization and the electoral effects of media bias

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  • Bernhardt, Dan
  • Krasa, Stefan
  • Polborn, Mattias

Abstract

We develop a model in which profits of media firms depend on their audience ratings, and maximizing profits may involve catering to a partisan audience by suppressing information that the partisan audience does not like hearing. While voters are rational, understand the nature of the news suppression bias and update appropriately, important information is lost through bias and can lead to electoral mistakes. We characterize those conditions that give rise to electoral mistakes, showing that heightened political polarization and asymmetric distributions of voter ideologies make electoral mistakes more likely. Even if the median ideology is a centrist and centrist voters gain access to unbiased news, media bias can generate excessive "cross-over" voting, which, in turn, can lead to the election of the wrong candidate.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5-6 (June)
Pages: 1092-1104

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:5-6:p:1092-1104

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Martinelli, Cesar, 2006. "Would rational voters acquire costly information?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 129(1), pages 225-251, July.
  2. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro, 2005. "Media Bias and Reputation," NBER Working Papers 11664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Timothy J. Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1995. "The Swing Voter's Curse," Discussion Papers 1064, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," NBER Working Papers 9295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alan Gerber & Dean Karlan & Daniel Bergan, 2006. "Does the media matter? A field experiment measuring the effect of newspapers on voting behavior and political opinions," Natural Field Experiments 00252, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," NBER Working Papers 12169, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
  8. Bernhardt, Dan & Krasa, Stefan & Polborn, Mattias, 2008. "Political polarization and the electoral effects of media bias," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1092-1104, June.
  9. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1994. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections with Private Information," Discussion Papers 1117, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  10. Martin J. Osborne, 1995. "Spatial Models of Political Competition under Plurality Rule: A Survey of Some Explanations of the Number of Candidates and the Positions They Take," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 28(2), pages 261-301, May.
  11. Jeffrey Milyo & Tim Groseclose, 2005. "A Measure of Media Bias," Working Papers 0501, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 25 Aug 2005.
  12. Baron, David P., 2006. "Persistent media bias," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 1-36, January.
  13. Baron, David P., 2004. "Persistent Media Bias," Research Papers 1845r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
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