There is a huge difference between public perceptions of the power of media in elections and academic evidence of its influence. This gap stems from the fact that the public uses different forms of evidence than academics use to infer media power. This essay outlines the reasons for this great divide, then highlights the seriousness of its consequences for the allocation of political resources. Public beliefs in omnipotent media contribute to wasted time and money; ultimately, they undermine the legitimacy of election outcomes.

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