Research

Media and Political Polarization

May 2013
Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 16: 101-127

Annual Reviews

This article examines if the emergence of more partisan media has contributed to political polarization and led Americans to support more partisan policies and candidates. Congress and some newer media outlets have added more partisan messages to a continuing supply of mostly centrist news. Although political attitudes of most Americans have remained fairly moderate, evidence points to some polarization among the politically involved. Proliferation of media choices lowered the share of less interested, less partisan voters and thereby made elections more partisan. But evidence for a causal link between more partisan messages and changing attitudes or behaviors is mixed at best. Measurement problems hold back research on partisan selective exposure and its consequences. Ideologically one-sided news exposure may be largely confined to a small, but highly involved and influential, segment of the population. There is no firm evidence that partisan media are making ordinary Americans more partisan.