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Partisan bias in economic news: Evidence on the agenda-setting behavior of U.S. newspapers

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  • Larcinese, Valentino
  • Puglisi, Riccardo
  • Snyder, James M.

Abstract

We study the agenda-setting political behavior of a large sample of U.S. newspapers during the 1996–2005 period. Our purpose is to examine the intensity of coverage of economic issues as a function of the underlying economic conditions and the political affiliation of the incumbent president, focusing on unemployment, inflation, the federal budget and the trade deficit. We investigate whether there is any significant correlation between the endorsement policy of newspapers, and the differential coverage of bad/good economic news as a function of the president's political affiliation. We find evidence that newspapers with pro-Democratic endorsement pattern systematically give more coverage to high unemployment when the incumbent president is a Republican than when the president is Democratic, compared to newspapers with pro-Republican endorsement pattern. This result is robust to controlling for the partisanship of readers. We find similar but less robust results for the trade deficit. We also find some evidence that newspapers cater to the partisan tastes of readers in the coverage of the budget deficit. We find no evidence of a partisan bias – or at least of a bias that is correlated with the endorsement or reader partisanship – for stories on inflation.

Suggested Citation

  • Larcinese, Valentino & Puglisi, Riccardo & Snyder, James M., 2011. "Partisan bias in economic news: Evidence on the agenda-setting behavior of U.S. newspapers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1178-1189.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:9:p:1178-1189
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.04.006
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan S. Gerber & Dean Karlan & Daniel Bergan, 2009. "Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 35-52, April.
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    3. Fair, Ray C, 1978. "The Effect of Economic Events on Votes for President," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(2), pages 159-173, May.
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    5. Matthew Gentzkow & Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Rise of the Fourth Estate. How Newspapers Became Informative and Why It Mattered," NBER Chapters,in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 187-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    8. Valentino Larcinese, 2003. "The Instrumental Voter Goes to the News-Agent: Demand for Information, Election Closeness, and the Media," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 579.03, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    News; Mass media; Information; Media bias;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media

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