From partisan media to misperception: Affective polarization as mediator

Abstract

This article provides evidence that affective polarization is an important mechanism linking conservative media use to political misperceptions. Partisan media’s potential to polarize is well documented, and there are numerous ways in which hostility toward political opponents might promote endorsement of inaccurate beliefs. We test this mediated model using data collected via nationally representative surveys conducted during two recent U.S. Presidential elections. Fixed effects regression models using three-wave panel data collected in 2012 provide evidence that conservative media exposure contributes to more polarized feelings toward major-party Presidential candidates, and this growing favorability gap is associated with misperceptions critical of the Democrat. Further, these effects are more pronounced among Republicans than among Democrats. Cross-sectional analysis using data collected in 2016 provide additional evidence of the mediated relationship. Theoretical and real-world significance of these results is discussed.

Publication
Journal of Communication