Are Biased Media Bad for Democracy?
30 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2013 Last revised: 21 Feb 2019
Date Written: January 11, 2019
This paper assesses the normative and positive claims regarding the consequences of biased media using a political agency framework that includes a strategic voter, polarized politicians, and news providers. My model predicts that voters are always better informed with unbiased than biased outlets even when the latter have opposite ideological preferences. However, biased media may improve voter welfare. Contrary to several scholars' fears, partisan news providers are not always bad for democracy. My theoretical findings also have important implications for empirical analyses of the electoral consequences of changes in the media environment. The impact of left-wing and right-wing biased outlets depends on the partisan identity of office-holders. Empirical findings may, thus, not be comparable across studies or even within studies over time. Existing empirical studies are unlikely to measure the consequences of biased media as researchers never observe and can rarely approximate the adequate counterfactual: elections with unbiased news outlets.
Keywords: omission bias, presentation bias, accountability, counterfactual
JEL Classification: D72, D78, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation