A House Divided: How Today's Media and Partisan Gerrymandering Broke America

Open Access
Author:
Litwin, Katherine
Area of Honors:
Journalism
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Curtis William Chandler, Thesis Supervisor
  • Anthony Barbieri, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • partisan gerrymandering
  • fake news
  • online media
  • supreme court
  • politics
  • social media
  • polarization
  • partisan media
Abstract:
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts”-Daniel Patrick Moynihan We frequently hear about how the political conversation is divided in American society, about how American society is broken, and yet who is there to blame? Between discourse amongst our neighbors, politicians, and media, we are surrounded by an influx of polarized viewpoints and a discouraging outlook on everything from our elections, to healthcare, our president… and the list goes on. However, I question whether if we were to sift through the clutter of information, and oft-published misinformation, to single out just a few, relevant problems, that we would see we have some readily available solutions. In this paper I seek to understand, firstly, where the problem may be coming from, and secondly, what are some manageable ways to help mitigate the effects. I suspect that “fake news,” or misinformation, in the fast-paced digital age and political gamesmanship via partisan gerrymandering are two key issues that could have considerable positive outcomes if acted upon. My work in this paper is theoretical and based in current events and research to support it, as well as some suggestions for future research if considerable weight is given to seeking out solutions. I find that while much of the research proves to be quite complex, yielding mixed results, some of the most effective ways we may see an increase in trust and less polarization is by continuing to allow the same freedoms of communication the United States has always enjoyed while taking personal responsibility on all fronts to stay ahead of fake news outbreaks and combat their emergence the right way, and to promote media literacy in the context of a new media framework; and fight partisan gerrymandering by striking it down in the courts and acting swiftly to institute independent commissions to take on the role of drawing district boundaries. These measures show a considerable degree of support from scholars in the field and show quantifiable, positive results. With these two goals in mind it is possible that we can make small, yet substantial changes and enjoy the vast support of the public. If we don’t, we will continue to see trust and satisfaction disintegrate more and more.