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Media and polarization

  • Campante, Filipe R.
  • Hojman, Daniel A.

This paper sheds light on the links between media and political polarization by looking at the introduction of broadcast TV in the US. We provide causal evidence that broadcast TV decreased the ideological extremism of US representatives. We then show that exposure to radio was associated with decreased polarization. We interpret this result by using a simple framework that identifies two channels linking media environment to politicians' incentives to polarize. First, the ideology effect: changes in the media environment may affect the distribution of citizens' ideological views, with politicians moving their positions accordingly. Second, the motivation effect: the media may affect citizens' political motivation, changing the ideological composition of the electorate and thereby impacting elite polarization while mass polarization is unchanged. The evidence on polarization and turnout is consistent with a prevalence of the ideology effect in the case of TV, as both of them decreased. Increased turnout associated with radio exposure is in turn consistent with a role for the motivation effect.

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

Volume (Year): 100 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 79-92

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:100:y:2013:i:c:p:79-92
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2013.02.006
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  1. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. Campante, Filipe R. & Hojman, Daniel, 2010. "Media and Polarization," Working Paper Series rwp10-002, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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  9. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972.
  10. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2009. "The Effect of Newspaper Entry and Exit on Electoral Politics," NBER Working Papers 15544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2002. "Polarization, Politics and Property Rights: Links between Inequality and Growth," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 111(1-2), pages 127-54, March.
  13. Stefano DellaVigna & Matthew Gentzkow, 2010. "Persuasion: Empirical Evidence," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 643-669, 09.
  14. Montalvo, Jose G. & Reynal-Querol, Marta, 2005. "Ethnic diversity and economic development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 293-323, April.
  15. Ruben Durante & Brian Knight, 2009. "Partisan Control, Media Bias, and Viewer Responses: Evidence from Berlusconi's Italy," NBER Working Papers 14762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Melvin Hinich & Peter Ordeshook, 1969. "Abstentions and equilibrium in the electoral process," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 81-106, September.
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  18. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221.
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