Election Outcomes with Pervasive Media Bias

Francesco D'Acunto

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business

June 2012

Do voters process political information rationally? I use Italy as a laboratory to investigate if and to which extent a pervasive ideological bias in media outlets affects the behavior of voters many years after its inception. I exploit a natural experiment: idiosyncratic variation of deadlines to switch from analogic to digital TV signals for Italian households across 2010 Regional elections. Digital transmission allows for many more channels to be aired than analogic TV. Moving to digital TV helps viewers who are not Bayesian filter out the Berlusconi bias in Italian TV through three channels: (i) exposition to more varied information sources; (ii) selection of new entertainment programs instead of biased news programs; (iii) incapacitation to be exposed for those who do not go digital by the deadline. My results are consistent with limitation of Berlusconi bias exposure reducing votes for Berlusconi candidate by 2 to 5.5 percentage points. Also, they imply that at least 24 percent of voters are affected by persuasion bias. I show that the effect is not driven by demographic or economic observables, and discuss several alternative explanations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: Elections, Media Bias, Media Economics, Behavioral Economics

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Date posted: May 17, 2012 ; Last revised: December 22, 2012

Suggested Citation

D'Acunto, Francesco, Election Outcomes with Pervasive Media Bias (June 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2060356 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2060356

Contact Information

Francesco D'Acunto (Contact Author)
University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business ( email )
College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States
HOME PAGE: http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~fdacunto
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