IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Media and Polarization

  • Campante, Filipe Robin
  • Hojman, Daniel Andres

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

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

in new window

Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4454154
Contact details of provider: Postal: 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Fax: 617-496-2554
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
  2. Robert Jensen & Emily Oster, 2009. "The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1057-1094, August.
  3. Campante, Filipe R. & Hojman, Daniel, 2010. "Media and Polarization," Working Paper Series rwp10-002, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2004. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," NBER Working Papers 10835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  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. Matthew A. Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2004. "Media, Education and Anti-Americanism in the Muslim World," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 117-133, Summer.
  8. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2009. "Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 766.09, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC), revised 25 Mar 2010.
  9. 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.
  10. Montalvo, Jose G. & Reynal-Querol, Marta, 2005. "Ethnic diversity and economic development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 293-323, April.
  11. Melvin Hinich & Peter Ordeshook, 1969. "Abstentions and equilibrium in the electoral process," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 81-106, September.
  12. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Polarization, politics, and property rights : links between inequality and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2418, The World Bank.
  13. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  14. 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.
  15. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  16. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2011. "The Effect of Newspaper Entry and Exit on Electoral Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 2980-3018, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4454154. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ben Steinberg)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.