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Media and Polarization

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  • Campante, Filipe Robin
  • Hojman, Daniel Andres

Abstract

This paper provides a model of how media environments affect political polarization. We first develop a model of how media environments, characterized by their levels of accessibility and variety of content, interact with citizens' ideological views and attitudes and political motivation. We then embed it in a model of majoritarian electoral competition in which politicians react to those media-influenced views. We show how equilibrium polarization is affected by changes in the media environment, through two channels: the variety effect, whereby a decrease in media variety leads to convergence in citizens' views and hence to lower polarization; and the composition effect, whereby a lowering of barriers to media accessibility increases turnout and hence lowers polarization, since newly motivated voters are relatively more moderate. We take the model's predictions to the data, in the US context of the introduction of broadcast TV, in the 1940s and 1950s, and radio, in the 1920s and 1930s. We show that, consistent with the model's predictions, TV decreased polarization, and exposure to (network) radio was correlated with lower polarization. The evidence suggests that the variety effect was more important than the composition effect.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4454154.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4454154

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  4. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2007. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1187-1234, 08.
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  14. Campante, Filipe Robin & Hojman, Daniel Andres, 2010. "Media and Polarization," Scholarly Articles 4454154, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  15. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
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Cited by:
  1. Gans, Joshua S. & Leigh, Andrew, 2011. "How Partisan is the Press? Multiple Measures of Media Slant," IZA Discussion Papers 6156, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Falck, Oliver & Gold, Robert & Heblich, Stephan, 2012. "E-Lections: Voting Behavior and the Internet," IZA Discussion Papers 6545, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Campante, Filipe Robin & Hojman, Daniel Andres, 2010. "Media and Polarization," Scholarly Articles 4454154, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Prat, Andrea & Strömberg, David, 2011. "The Political Economy of Mass Media," CEPR Discussion Papers 8246, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Filipe R. Campante & Ruben Durante & Francesco Sobbrio, 2013. "Politics 2.0: The Multifaceted Effect of Broadband Internet on Political Participation," NBER Working Papers 19029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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