Date of Graduation

5-2016

Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Michael Franz

Second Advisor

Jeffrey S. Selinger

Third Advisor

Paul N. Franco

Abstract

How can individuals in the contemporary media and political environment form better political beliefs? In chapter one, this thesis considers what it means to say American politics is polarized. It evaluates the extent of polarization in American politics. And it presents original evidence that suggests that just as the public and members of Congress have polarized, so too has American political discourse. Through the lens of political psychology, chapter two investigates how America’s polarized politics has influenced the quality of individuals’ beliefs. Chapter three explores the role that the media plays in encouraging or minimizing the biased information processing practices identified in chapter two. Finally, I conclude by arguing that individuals need to fundamentally rethink how they consume political information; advocate for the creation of a completely new social media platform specifically designed to encourage political deliberation; and outline what such a platform might look like.

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