Political Polarization and Discordant Information Consumption and Internalization

Last registered on June 24, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Political Polarization and Discordant Information Consumption and Internalization
Initial registration date
June 05, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 24, 2024, 12:12 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

UC Berkeley, Goldman School

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Political polarization can negatively impact governance and democracy. Enriquez et al. (2024) document through a field experiment in 500 Mexican municipalities that political polarization leads to biases in information processing that can undermine electoral accountability.
At the same time, recent academic literature documents successful interventions in reducing affective polarization (Ahler and Sood, 2018; Levendusky, 2018; Kalla and Broockman, 2023; Druckman et al., 2022). In turn, Enriquez et al. (2024) show that alerting citizens about biases in information processing due to being guided by feelings, ideology, or partisanship has the potential to restore the benefits of consuming information about incumbent government performance for electoral accountability. We plan to evaluate the cross-randomization of antipolarization treatments and a bias alert within a survey to a nationally representative panel of 6,000 respondents in Mexico. We will use survey measures of information consumption to descriptively and causally assess how political polarization affects the consumption and internalization of ideologically opposed information. Our goal is to help design scalable interventions so that more citizens process politically relevant information regardless of their ideological or partisan position. Informed political participation, which is based on the consumption and processing of information across the entire ideological spectrum, is fundamental to good governance.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Larreguy, Horacio and Ernesto Tiburcio. 2024. "Political Polarization and Discordant Information Consumption and Internalization." AEA RCT Registry. June 24. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.13765-1.0
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Experimental Details


We begin the survey experiment with baseline questions, including baseline measures of ideology and affective polarization toward out-partisans and the media. Then, anti-polarization treatments and a placebo treatment are randomly assigned. Next, we repeat the affective polarization questions to assess the effects of the anti-polarization treatment on those outcomes.

Next, we turn to our measures of information consumption. First, we ask individuals which news article among six titles they would be interested in reading and sharing. The articles are on three recent polarizing topics, and for each topic, there are two articles, one from a pro-government outlet and one from an anti-government outlet. Individuals are asked to choose one news article to read, and are told that, after their choice, they will be assigned to read one of the articles at random that might be or not the one of their choice. They are also told that, after reading the article, they will be asked some questions about it, as well as their attitudes toward the topic it covers. In reality, respondents are assigned with a 0.99 probability (to avoid deception) to read a news article from their ideologically opposed news source.

Before reading the news article, those assigned to the debiasing nudge receive a message asking them to consider the information without being swayed by their emotions or political preferences, as in Enríquez, Larreguy and Lujambio (2023). After reading the newspaper article, individuals are asked a series of questions to assess their attention to and internalization of the information in the newspaper article. Affective polarization questions are repeated once more. These questions will allow us to understand to what extent affective polarization affects information consumption and internalization, and how information consumption counteracts or reinforces affective polarization.

We consider a placebo and three depolarizing treatment arms, based on the aforementioned literature, which we combine with randomization of the debiasing nudge and a control. The first anti-polarizing treatment is a video presenting information about the public policy preferences of citizens across the ideological spectrum. The intention is to demonstrate that those citizens actually have similar preferences. The second treatment is a video that focuses on generating empathy through perspective getting. Treated individuals are shown several stories about the common needs of different Mexican citizens. The objective is to generate an empathetic reaction by showing that everybody has similar needs, including the need for a safe environment and providing food, education and health care for the children and elderly. Finally, the last treatment is a video that presents information about common values and identities with the goal of enhancing the Mexican identity, while trumping perceived differences between citizens across the ideological spectrum.
While the literature generally considers these treatments in isolation, we also cross-randomly assigned half of the people assigned to the placebo and to any anti-polarizing treatment arm to a debiasing nudge before reading the article. Specifically, we ask those participants to keep an open mind and be receptive to the information they will receive, just as Enriquez et al. (2024).

Our target population is 6,000 respondents who are part of the firm Netquest’s respondent panel survey. The group is roughly representative of the population that consumes news online: 48% male and 52% female; 29% between 18 and 24, 24% between 25 and 34, 21% between 35 and 44, 15% between 45 and 54, and 10% between 55 and 65; the geographic distribution is nationally representative.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Feeling thermometer: ask participants to rate, with the commonly used 0-100 “feeling thermometer”, their feelings toward left-wing and center-right citizens.

Trust in media: ask participants to rate, using a Likert-scale, the extent to which they trust media outlets that cover the government more or less favorably.

Stress levels: asks survey respondents what their current stress levels are, on a scale that goes from 0 (no stress) to 10 (a lot of stress).

Mood: asks participants what their current mood is, on a scale that goes from 0 (very at ease) to 10 (very angry).

Differ in needs and future: ask participants the extent to which they think that the needs and the future that left-wing citizens want differ relative to those of center-right citizens.

Read articles: asks participants, using a Likert scale, the extent to which they would read different news articles, based only on their titles, if they saw them online –before reading one of the articles.

Share articles: asks participants, using a Likert scale, the extent to which they would share in social media different news articles, based only on their titles if they saw them online –before reading one of the articles.

Differ in values and traditions: ask participants the extent to which they think that the values and traditions of left-wing citizens differ relative to those of center-right citizens.

Index of ideologically opposed news internalization: We will create an index by aggregating the coding of the correct answers to the following questions we ask participants after reading the news articles.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Article attack: asks participants, using a Likert scale, how much they think the news article attacks the government’s performance.

Article informative: asks survey respondents, using a Likert scale, how much the news article changed their perspective.

Article perception: ask participants, using a Likert scale, their perceptions about the government’s performance in the policy domain covered in the article they read.

Anti-democracy: asks survey respondents, using a Likert scale, how much they agree with the following statement “I do not care that an undemocratic government assumes power if it solves problems, especially if it shares my ideology”
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We have conducted a survey of 6,000 (nationally representative, but over-representing the state of Nuevo Leon) respondents through which a combination of treatments was delivered. After measuring initial levels of affective polarization and media consumption, we cross-randomized respondents to a combination of one of three anti-polarization treatments or a placebo and a nudge to incorporate counter-attitudinal information or control. The anti-polarization treatments are videos highlighting the Mexican national identity, providing statistical information about similarities in policy preferences of those across the ideological spectrum, or presenting stories about the common needs of fellow Mexicans.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done by a computer during the survey
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Debiasing nudge
Treatment Control Yes
Statistical information 750 750
Listen to each other’s experience 750 750
Highlight common identity 750 750
Placebo 750 750
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We calculated the standardized minimum detectable effect size (MDE) for all relevant treatment comparisons considering the sample size in each treatment arm as above, a power of 0.8, and a significance level of 0.05. Given our 4 x 2 design, we have three possible main sample comparisons in terms of sample sizes: 1. Compare the sample with anti-polarization treatment (4,500) with the sample with placebo (1,500). Since this is an individual randomization, we can detect a minimum detectable effect (MDE) of 0.0835 standard deviations. 2. Compare the sample without debiasing nudge (3,000) with the sample with debiasing nudge (3,000). We can detect an MDE of 0.0725 standard deviations. 3. Compare the samples of an anti-polarization treatment (1,500) with the placebo (1,500) or among the anti-polarization treatments. We have the power to detect an MDE of 0.1025 standard deviations These are all lower limits, since we hope to reduce the variation of the variables of interest by controlling for covariates.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

PAP Anti-Polarization Treatments

MD5: 82ac0e75b7f2e09b61d367c7a7ff57ac

SHA1: 1207dd7fe2ca0bfb7025e12154a00af1c41f23d7

Uploaded At: June 05, 2024


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Reports, Papers & Other Materials

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