Identity-Based Elections

57 Pages Posted: 27 May 2022

See all articles by Helios Herrera

Helios Herrera

University of Warwick

Ravideep Sethi

University of Utah - Department of Finance

Date Written: April 2022


We study how media choice driven by political identity can influence electoral results. Citizens gather information from mainstream news but also from possibly partisan media sources which filter news in particular predetermined ways. We assume that citizens process all information they receive correctly but choose their own media sources in a behavioral self-serving way to try to preserve their political faith/identity. That is, they attempt to rationally counteract mainstream news that they might view as unfavorable. In the baseline setup, we assume that citizens on either side of the political spectrum are exposed to different extents to mainstream news, as in the U.S. case. This endogenous media choice generates an electoral advantage for the less exposed side, which can turn into a sure electoral victory even for the wrong candidate in a democracy. Results are robust to forms of media distrust and are stronger if citizens have biased priors. In contrast, we show that, in illiberal democracies, where the government controls the media, official media propaganda works only if citizens are unaware of its bias, but otherwise backfires entirely without censorship of other media.

Keywords: Belief-based utility, information aggregation, information design

JEL Classification: D72, D83, D9

Suggested Citation

Herrera, Helios and Sethi, Ravideep, Identity-Based Elections (April 2022). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP17203, Available at SSRN:

Helios Herrera (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Ravideep Sethi

University of Utah - Department of Finance ( email )

David Eccles School of Business
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

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