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A Theory on Media Bias and Elections

  • Series
    PhD Lunch Seminars
  • Speaker
    Junze Sun (University of Amsterdam)
  • Location
    Tinbergen Institute Amsterdam, Room 1.60
  • Date and time

    November 20, 2018
    12:15 - 13:15

This paper develops 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 (i) the relative appeal of candidates, and (ii) the closeness of elections. In large elections, the former determines the election outcome, whereas the latter drives voter turnout. With a single media outlet, an increase 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. Increasing the number of media outlets can systematically shift the election outcome and voter turnout in either direction, yet it unambiguously improves information transmission and 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.