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A Theory on Media Bias and Elections

Author

Listed:
  • Junze Sun

    (Amsterdam School of Economics)

  • Arthur Schram

    (Amsterdam School of Economics)

  • Randolph Sloof

    (Amsterdam School of Economics)

Abstract

We develop a tractable theory to study the impact of biased media on election outcomes, voter turnout and welfare. News released by media allows voters to infer the relative appeal of the two candidates, and the closeness of elections. In large elections, the former determines the election outcome, whereas the latter drives voter turnout. With a single media outlet, a rise in media bias affects the election outcome in a non-monotonic way, and reduces voter welfare by decreasing the probability of electing the efficient candidate and increasing aggregate turnout costs. Introducing extra media outlets can systematically shift the election outcome and voter turnout in either direction, but it weakly improves voter welfare. The impact of other ways to strengthen media competition – such as increased polarization and prevention of collusion – critically depends on whether media have commitment power; if not, they can worsen information transmission and voter welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Junze Sun & Arthur Schram & Randolph Sloof, 2019. "A Theory on Media Bias and Elections," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-048/I, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20190048
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    File URL: https://papers.tinbergen.nl/19048.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    media bias; voting; Poisson games; media competition; commitment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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