The Hostile Audience: The Effect of Access to Broadband Internet on Partisan Affect

Over the past 50 years, partisans have come to increasingly dislike each other (Iyengar, Sood, and Lelkes 2012), so much so, that today implicit partisan prejudice exceeds implicit racial prejudice (Iyengar and Westwood 2014; see also Chambers, Schlenker, and Collisson 2013). Party cues now constrain social and interpersonal relations—partisans trust co-partisans more than supporters of the opposing party (Carlin and Love 2013; Iyengar and Westwood 2014; see also Hetherington and Rudolph 2014), and large proportions of both Republicans and Democrats are troubled by the prospect of a family member marrying a supporter of the main opposing party (Iyengar, Sood, and Lelkes 2012; see also Huber and Malhotra 2013).1

Over the same period that partisan animus has been increasing, the reach of partisan information sources has been expanding. The broadcast news audience of 1975 could “choose” between three largely indistinguishable and devoutly nonpartisan network newscasts. Today, aside from a broad array of nonpartisan news sources, including network news, viewers can also tune in to “all-news” partisan cable channels, partisan “news” shows on numerous other television channels, including two prominent shows on Comedy Central, or one of the countless partisan sources available online.