The transformation from an undifferentiated public to a surfeit of interest groups has become yet another distinguishing feature of the increasing polarization of American politics. Jill Edy and Patrick Meirick contend that the media has played a key role in this splintering. A Nation Fragmented reveals how the content and character of the public agenda has transformed as the media environment evolved from network television and daily newspapers in the late 1960s to today’s saturated social media world with 200 cable channels.
The authors seek to understand what happened as the public’s sense of shared priorities deteriorated. They consider to what extent our public agenda has “fallen apart” as attention to news has declined, and to what extent we have been “driven apart” by changes in the issue agendas of news. Edy and Meirick also show how public attention is limited and spread too thin except in cases where a highly consistent news agenda can provoke a more focused public agenda.
A Nation Fragmented explores the media’s influence and political power and, ultimately, how contemporary democracy works.