So if it’s not the Internet that has Americans at each other’s throats, what is it?
A more likely culprit might be cable news, which is something that older American do consume. Studies find that Fox News, a right-leaning channel founded in 1996, had a measurable effect on voting patterns. Places that got Fox News in time for the 2000 election increased their support for George W. Bush by about half a percentage point. And in subsequent elections, places where Fox News was easier to find on the channel lineup had higher levels of Republican voting, according to economists Gregory Martin and Ali Yurukoglu.
The economists suggest that the power of Fox News has actually increased over time, in part because the network has drifted further to the right in the past decade. This chart from their paper, which analyzed cable transcripts for partisan phrases, shows that Fox News became increasingly conservative at the same time that rival channel MSNBC became increasingly liberal. The economists argue that increasing media polarization might explain two-thirds of the rise in political polarization among Americans in recent years.