Bill O'Reilly and Rachel Maddow are not to blame for polarizing American politics, at least according to one researcher. The National Science Foundation (NSF) provided a $66,638 grant to Temple University political scientist Kevin Arceneaux to study the influence of political programming in mass media. He set out to test the claim that cable television shows allow the public to insulate themselves from opposing viewpoints--polarizing the electorate. For the study, Arceneaux conducted two experiments. In the first, subjects were forced to watch a 15-minute segment from 'The Rachel Maddow Show' or 'The O'Reilly Factor'. In the second experiment, another group of subjects were allowed to choose between Hardball with Chris Matthews or one of two unrelated entertainment shows, with a separate control group watching only an entertainment show. His test results found that while the choices people make in consuming the news have some effect, it is possible that some of the problem lies with a public that is more interested in voting than it used to be. Among the more puzzling of his findings, Arceneaux places the blame for polarization on "increasing voter turnout."
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images