MEDIA BIAS AND VOTING

October 3, 2006

Does media bias affect voting?  Over 70 percent of Americans believe that there is either a great deal or a fair amount of media bias in news coverage.  Evidence of bias ranges from the topic choices of the New York Times to the choice of think tanks to which the media refer in their broadcasts, according to authors Stefano DellaVigna and Ethan Kaplan.

They address this question by looking at the entry of Fox News into cable markets and its subsequent impact on voting:

  • They find that the introduction of Fox News had a small but statistically significant effect on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000.
  • Republicans gained an estimate of between 0.4 and 0.7 percentage points in the towns that broadcast Fox News.
  • They also find that Fox News had a significant effect on Senate vote share and on voter turnout; their estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its viewers to vote Republican according to a first audience measure and 11 to 28 percent according to a second, more restrictive audience measure.

The authors also analyzed whether Fox News affected voting in those races where it did not cover the candidates directly, as was the case in most Senate races: 

  • They find that Fox News increased the Republican vote share for Senate, by 0.8 percentage points. 
  • Additionally, the effect was not larger for the one Senatorial race that Fox News did cover heavily, the New York state race between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio.
  • Fox News appears to have induced a generalized ideological shift.

Source: Les Picker, "Media Bias and Voting," NBER Digest, October 2006; based upon: Stefano DellaVigna and Ethan Kaplan, "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 12169, April 2006.

For text (subscription required):

http://nber.com/digest/oct06/w12169.html

For study text:

http://papers.nber.org/papers/w12169

 

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