Exposure to Extremely Partisan News from the Other Political Side Shows Scarce Boomerang Effects

Andreu Casas Salleras, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, Magdalena Wojcieszak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A narrow information diet may be partly to blame for the growing political divides in the United States, suggesting exposure to dissimilar views as a remedy. These efforts, however, could be counterproductive, exacerbating attitude and affective polarization. Yet findings on whether such boomerang effect exists are mixed and the consequences of dissimilar exposure on other important outcomes remain unexplored. To contribute to this debate, we rely on a preregistered longitudinal experimental design combining participants’ survey self-reports and their behavioral browsing data, in which one should observe boomerang effects. We incentivized liberals to read political articles on extreme conservative outlets (Breitbart, The American Spectator, and The Blaze) and conservatives to read extreme left-leaning sites (Mother Jones, Democracy Now, and The Nation). We maximize ecological validity by embedding the treatment in a larger project that tracks over time changes in online exposure and attitudes. We explored the effects on attitude and affective polarization, as well as on perceptions of the political system, support for democratic principles, and personal well-being. Overall we find little evidence of boomerang effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1491–1530
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • polarization
  • Counter-attitudinal information
  • boomerang effect
  • backfire effect
  • experiment
  • digital trace data

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