Historical Dramas, Current Political Choices: Analyzing Partisan Selective Exposure With a Docudrama


Sebastián Valenzuela


Mass Communication and Society


Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


Ciencias de la Computación


  1. Sebastián Valenzuela, School of Communications, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. National Research Center for Integrated Natural Disasters Management, Chile (CIGIDEN/Conicyt/Fondap 15110017)
  2. Angela S. Brandão, School of Communications, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


This study investigates the docudrama hypothesis—the idea that fiction based on real stories can influence audience members’ perception of political reality—in the context of current debates on partisan selective exposure and reinforcement effects. It does so by analyzing the influence of an Oscar-nominated docudrama on viewers’ attitudes and behavioral intention using propensity score matching. By means of a representative survey, we find strong evidence of partisan selective exposure and avoidance. Furthermore, among respondents with a similar likelihood of film attendance, actual attendance has a strong association with positive retrospective evaluations of the political coalition glorified in the movie, and an indirect relationship—via retrospective evaluations—with voting intentions. Discussion of the findings shed light into potential real-world political effects of partisan selective exposure using content other than news.


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