The Political Impact of Media Bias - The Political Impact...

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The Political Impact of Media Bias Stefano DellaVigna UC Berkeley and NBER [email protected] Ethan Kaplan IIES, Stockholm University [email protected] This version: June 26, 2007. 1. Introduction In a representative system of government, policy outcomes are a f ected by the political preferences and the beliefs of the voters. The media plays a key role in shaping these preferences and beliefs. It collects, summarizes, and frames the information that voters use in their voting decisions. As a result, many have expressed concern that political beliefs may be system- atically manipulable by the media. Media slant may bias voters, and hence bias the policy decisions. Concerns of this type are relevant in the U.S. given that over 70 percent of Americans believe that there is a great deal or a fair amount of media bias in news coverage (Pew, 2004). Media bias is at least as common, if not more common, in other countries with less media freedom than the U.S. But is media bias necessarily a problem? The e f ect of media bias depends on how the audience processes the information broadcast by the media. If the audience is aware of the media bias and f lters it from the information, distortions Bran Knight, Roumeen Islam, and participants of the World Bank conference on ‘The E f ects of Mass Media on Public Policy’ provided useful comments. Anitha Sivasankaran provided excellent research assistance.
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in media reporting are unlikely to have large e f ects on voter beliefs (Bray and Kreps, 1987). In this rational world, media bias does not persuade voters. Other theories hold that, instead, media bias persuades voters. This may occur because voters do not su ciently account for bias in the media (De Marzo, Vayanos, and Zwiebel 2003). This, in turn, may be a direct e f ect of the framing of news (Lako f , 1987). Ultimately, understanding the impact of media bias on voter beliefs and pref- erences is an empirical task. In this chapter, we f rst review some of the papers that have provided a measure of this impact. Most of these papers indicate a large impact of the media. However, some of the f ndings can also be explained by self-selection of voters into preferred media. For example, right-wing voters are more likely to expose themselves to right-wing media, giving an impression that the right-wing media persuades them. Other studies provide evidence of an impact on self-reported voting, or stated voting in a laboratory experiment, as opposed to voting in actual elections. In the rest of the paper, we summarize the result of a natural experiment that addresses the question of the impact of media bias on political preferences. We draw on DellaVigna and Kaplan (2007) which examines the timing of the entry of Fox News in local cable markets, and considers the impact on voting. Relative to DellaVigna and Kaplan (2007), we present new results on turnout for US Senate elections, as well as a more general analysis of persuasion rates.
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This note was uploaded on 07/21/2011 for the course BUS 10001 taught by Professor All during the Spring '11 term at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology.

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The Political Impact of Media Bias - The Political Impact...

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