Media  and  

Polarization
@jonathanstray
Build Peace 2015

Polarization  is  really  easy  
to  see  in  our  data

Polarization  in  Congress

Retweet  network  of  political  tweets.  
From  Conover,  et.  al.,  Political  Polarization  on  Twi.er

Map  of  political  book  sales  on  Amazon,  August  2008
Vladis  Krebs,  orgnet.com

Gun  violence:  people  who  tweeted  this  article  also  tweeted  that  article

Jonathan  Stray,  The  Whole  Dysfunctional  National  Conversation  about  Guns  
in  one  Interactive  Graph,  The  Atlantic,  2012

Is  polarization  increasing?  
(in  the  US)

Royce  Carroll,  Jeff  Lewis,  James  Lo,  Nolan  McCarty,  Keith  Poole,  and  Howard  
Rosenthal,  "ʺCommon  Space"ʺ  DW-­‐‑NOMINATE  Scores

Estimated  by  comparing  2-­‐‑  and  3-­‐‑word  phrase  use  to  Congressional  Record
Gregory  J.  Martin,  Ali  Yurukoglu,  Bias  in  Cable  News:Real  Effects  and  Polarization

CNN,  Fox,  MSNBC
Source

Divisive  statements  /  hour

CNN

5.5

Fox

22.0

MSNBC

27.3

Stephen  Lo^,  The  news  we  use:  A  mixed  method  analysis  of  cable  news  media  
polarization

"ʺDivisive  language"ʺ
Monsters, Extremists, Rich (or wealthy), Poor (or peasants), Uncle
Toms, Bunk, Gibberish, Dopey, Corrupt, Demonize, Heartless,
Cheapskate, Hippie, Liberal, Conservative, Socialist, Fascist,
Communist, Nazi, Pinhead, Right (or any variation), Left (or any
variation), Birther (or any variation), Beaten up, Smeared,
Slandered, Besmirched, Racist, Bigot, Homophobe, Cowardly,
Weak, Nutty, Dumb, Religious zealot, Incoherent, Ignorance,
Stupid, Bellicose, Aggressive, Fake, Quack, Fringe, Ridiculous,
Idiotic, Freak show, Thieves, Special interest lobbyists,
Bureaucrats, Garbage, Bull, Red, Blue

Pew  Research,  Political  Polarization  in  the  American  Public

It  ma^ers  what  you  measure!

Is  observed  polarization  due  to  the  lack  of  cross-­‐‑group  ties  /  exposure?
Or  do  people  see  the  other  side  and  only  engage  in  polarized  ways?

From  Garcia,  et.  al.,  Network  Polarization  in  online  politics  participatory  media

Dem/GOP  voters  more  divided...

Pew  Research,  Political  Polarization  in  the  American  Public

...but  fewer  people  identify  as  Dem/GOP

Pew  Research,  A  Deep  Dive  into  Party  Affiliation

Definitions  of  polarization
Ideological convergence on survey items
Distance between voting patterns
Formation of clusters in social networks
Lack of inter-group ties
Comparative language use
...

Polarization  increases  
around  political  events

Favorability  of  incumbent  (AKP)  and  opposition  (CHP)  in  Turkish  press

Ali  Çarkoglu,  Lemi  Baruh,  and  Kerem  Yildirim,  Press-­‐‑Party  Parallelism  and  
Polarization  of  News  Media  during  an  Election  Campaign:  The  Case  of  the  2011  Turkish  
Elections

Hashtag  polarity  in  Egypt,  Islamist  vs.  Secular

a  –  Assailants  gather  outside  Ministry  of  Defence  to  call  for  an  end  to  military  rule  
b  -­‐‑  Demonstrations  break  out  after  President  Morsi  grants  self  increased  power  
c,d  -­‐‑  Continuing  protests  after  the  November  22nd  declaration
e  -­‐‑  Demonstrations  in  Tahrir  square,  Port  Said  and  all  accross  the  country.  
f,g  -­‐‑  Demonstrations  at  Tahrir  square

Ingmar  Weber,  Venkata  R.  Kiran  Garimella,  Alaa  Batayneh,  Secular  vs.  islamist  
polarization  in  egypt  on  twi.er

More  engaged  =  more  polarized!

Most  people  still  centrist...

Does  media  drive  
polarization?

Media  drives  polarization
Increased
Media
Polarization

Increasingly  
Polarized  
People

[We  find]  a  positive  feedback  process  where  
voters  watch  slanted  news,  are  influenced  to  
move  closer  to  the  news’  channel’s  ideology,  
and  subsequently  have  even  stronger  
preference  for  that  channel,  due  to  the  
decreased  ideological  distance.
...
A  voter  watching  an  hour  per  week  of  a  news  
channel  for  a  year  would  be  influenced  to  a  
new  ideological  position  just  under  10%  of  the  
distance  to  the  channel’s  ideology.
Gregory  J.  Martin,  Ali  Yurukoglu,  Bias  in  Cable  News:Real  Effects  and  Polarization

Gregory  J.  Martin,  Ali  Yurukoglu,  Bias  in  Cable  News:Real  Effects  and  Polarization

Media  drives  polarization,  
polarization  drives  media
Increased
Media
Polarization

Increasingly  
Polarized  
People

Models  of  polarization

Which  polarization?
Polarized attitudes
Polarized media consumption
Polarized voting / behavior

In  the  1970s,  about  a  quarter  of  Americans  identified  
strongly  with  a  political  party.  Media  in  the  broadcast  
era  were  probably  too  centrist  for  these  people’s  tastes.  
Technological  change  has  made  it  economically  viable  
to  cater  to  smaller  audience  segments.  

Nobody  should  be  surprised  that  some  strong  
partisans  turned  to  more  ideologically  congruous  
media  formats  when  they  became  available.  But  that  
audience  migration  alone  does  not  constitute  evidence  
that  partisan  media  polarize  Americans.  

Markus  Prior,  Media  and  Political  Polarization

Increased  media  choice  drives  
polarized  consumption
Pre-­‐‑existing
polarized  
a^itudes

Increased  
media  choice

Increasingly
polarized
media  
consumption

Polarized  media  feedback  cycle
Increasingly
polarized
media  
consumption

Media  sources  
pick  a  side  to  
gain  viewer  
loyalty

Increasingly  
polarized  
a^itudes

Media  Polarization  Dynamics
other  factors
Media  choice

Polarized  consumption

Creation  of  polarized  media

Polarized  a^itudes

Polarized  behavior
other  factors