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Political polarization and the electoral effects of media bias

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

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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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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  1. Martinelli, Cesar, 2006. "Would rational voters acquire costly information?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 129(1), pages 225-251, July.
  2. Tim Groseclose & Jeffrey Milyo, 2005. "A Measure of Media Bias," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1191-1237, November.
  3. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  4. Dan Bernhardt & Stefan Krasa & Mattias Polborn, 2006. "Political Polarization and the Electoral Effects of Media Bias," CESifo Working Paper Series 1798, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
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  8. Baron, David P., 2004. "Persistent Media Bias," Research Papers 1845r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  9. Alan Gerber & Daniel Bergan & Dean Karlan, 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.
  10. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections with Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1029-1058, September.
  11. Baron, David P., 2006. "Persistent media bias," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 1-36, January.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
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