Date of Award

Spring 1-23-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Sean Richey

Second Advisor

Jason Reifler

Third Advisor

Sarah Gershon


This dissertation examines the role of extreme media (i.e. political talk radio and cable news opinion shows) on the political attitudes of viewers and listeners. I investigate whether extreme media has both positive and negative externalities for democratic citizenship. Specifically, I use laboratory experiments, national survey data, and qualitative interviews to test the impact of extreme media on viewers' political knowledge, trust in government, efficacy, and political tolerance. I use laboratory experiments in controlled settings to uncover the impact of viewership on political knowledge, trust in government, and efficacy. I confirm these lab findings with the national survey data, by using propensity score matching and ordered probit models to demonstrate that exposure to extreme media produces political knowledge and efficacy, but decreases trust in government. I further use process tracing to ascertain the motivations individuals use to choose to view extreme media. Finally, through subject interviews conducted as part of the self-selection portion via a 1 x 3 self-selection experiment, I find subjects seek out entertaining media specifically from ideologically similar outlets. This project advances the media and politics literature by demonstrating the capacity for extreme media to alter political behavior, attitudes, and information processing.