Helena Roy

Department of Economics

Inference Under Selection: An Application to Social Media and Partisan Polarization

Joint with Matt Brown (Department of Economics), I am researching how social media might contribute to partisan polarization in the U.S. Most people in the U.S. believe that their political opponents are more extreme than they really are. These misperceptions may have negative consequences for civic discourse and polarization. Where do partisan misperceptions come from? We study the role of selection neglect. If only the most extreme people talk about politics, people may mistakenly infer that the average partisan is similar to the average partisan whom they hear speaking (people forget that they are observing a selected sample). Our online experiment quantifies the importance of selection neglect. The findings will provide insights on the effects of social media on polarization and the optimal design of interventions to reduce partisan misperceptions.

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