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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
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2005. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330, November.
  2. Campante, Filipe Robin & Hojman, Daniel Andres, 2010. "Media and Polarization," Scholarly Articles 4454154, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Ruben Durante & Brian Knight, 2012. "Partisan Control, Media Bias, And Viewer Responses: Evidence From Berlusconi'S Italy," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 451-481, 05.
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  8. Eliana La Ferrara & Suzanne Duryea & Alberto E. Chong, 2008. "Soap Operas and Fertility: Evidence from Brazil," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6743, Inter-American Development Bank.
  9. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
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  11. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2009. "Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization," Working Papers 377, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  12. Melvin Hinich & Peter Ordeshook, 1969. "Abstentions and equilibrium in the electoral process," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 81-106, September.
  13. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
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  15. Montalvo, Jose G. & Reynal-Querol, Marta, 2005. "Ethnic diversity and economic development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 293-323, April.
  16. 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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