“Media and polarized political elites” by Daniel F. Stone
Daniel F. Stone
Oregon State University
While the degree to which polarization of U.S. voters has increased over time is still debated by scholars, it is a stylized fact that politicians have polarized substantially. Yet, existing media economics literature focuses on polarization of voters, and the political science literature on polarized politicians largely neglects the role of media. In this paper I develop a simple model showing how changes to the media environment (namely, the media becoming less informative regarding the social benefits of policy to centrist voters) can directly polarize politicians. The model makes several other predictions consistent with observed trends: increased gridlock and use of the filibuster, relatively greater polarization of more partisan voters, increased political turnover, declines to both the majority and minority parties' approval ratings before turnover, and generally lower approval ratings.