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Is newspaper coverage of economic events politically biased?

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  • John Lott
  • Kevin Hassett

Abstract

This paper develops an econometric technique to test for political bias in news reports that controls for the underlying character of the news reported. Because of the changing availability of the number of newspapers in Nexis/Lexis, two sets of time are examined: from January 1991 to May 2004 and from January 1985 to May 2004. Our results suggest that American newspapers tend to give more positive coverage to the same economic news when Democrats are in the White House than when Republicans are; a similar though smaller effect is found for Democratic control of Congress. Our results reject the claim that “reader diversity is a powerful force toward accuracy.” When all types of news are pooled into a single analysis, our results are significant. However, the results vary greatly depending upon which types of economic data are being reported. When newspapers are examined individually the only support that Republicans appear to obtain is from the president’s home state newspapers during his term. This is true for the Houston Chronicle under both Bushes and the Los Angeles Times during the Reagan administration. Contrary to rational expectations, media coverage affects people’s perceptions of the economy. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Suggested Citation

  • John Lott & Kevin Hassett, 2014. "Is newspaper coverage of economic events politically biased?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 65-108, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:160:y:2014:i:1:p:65-108
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-014-0171-5
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    2. Fos, Vyacheslav & Kempf, Elisabeth & Tsoutsoura, Margarita, 2021. "The Political Polarization of Corporate America," Working Papers 313, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State.
    3. Chonnakan Rittinon & Boontida Sa-ngimnet & Suparit Suwanik & Tanisa Tawichsri & Thiti Tosborvorn, 2022. "(I Think) I Don't Think Like You and I Don't Like You: Perception of Polarization and Out-Group Animosity," PIER Discussion Papers 194, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research.
    4. Elisabeth Kempf & Margarita Tsoutsoura, 2018. "Partisan Professionals: Evidence from Credit Rating Analysts," NBER Working Papers 25292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Benoit Aubert & Jane Li & Markus Luczak-Roesch & Thierry Warin, 2021. "La détermination des agendas de discussion par les médias sociaux," CIRANO Project Reports 2021rp-12, CIRANO.
    6. Jeffrey Cohen & Yuan Ding & Cédric Lesage & Hervé Stolowy, 2017. "Media Bias and the Persistence of the Expectation Gap: An Analysis of Press Articles on Corporate Fraud," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 144(3), pages 637-659, September.
    7. Rognone, Lavinia & Hyde, Stuart & Zhang, S. Sarah, 2020. "News sentiment in the cryptocurrency market: An empirical comparison with Forex," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 69(C).
    8. Le Moglie, Marco & Turati, Gilberto, 2019. "Electoral cycle bias in the media coverage of corruption news," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 140-157.
    9. Anna Kerkhof & Johannes Münster, 2021. "Detecting Coverage Bias in User-Generated Content," CESifo Working Paper Series 8844, CESifo.
    10. Wändi Bruine de Bruin & Htay-Wah Saw & Dana P. Goldman, 2020. "Political polarization in US residents’ COVID-19 risk perceptions, policy preferences, and protective behaviors," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 61(2), pages 177-194, October.
    11. Birz, Gene, 2017. "Stale economic news, media and the stock market," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 87-102.
    12. Bernhardt, Lea & Dewenter, Ralf & Thomas, Tobias, 2023. "Measuring partisan media bias in US newscasts from 2001 to 2012," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    13. Hong Huang & Hua Zhu & Wenshi Liu & Hua Gao & Hai Jin & Bang Liu, 2024. "Uncovering the essence of diverse media biases from the semantic embedding space," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 11(1), pages 1-12, December.
    14. Jeffrey Clemens & Michael R. Strain, 2020. "Public Policy and Participation in Political Interest Groups: An Analysis of Minimum Wages, Labor Unions, and Effective Advocacy," NBER Working Papers 27902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Market for News," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1031-1053, September.
    16. Yukihiro Yazaki, 2017. "Newspapers and political accountability: evidence from Japan," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 172(3), pages 311-331, September.
    17. Barrios, John M. & Hochberg, Yael V., 2021. "Risk perceptions and politics: Evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 862-879.
    18. Elisabeth Kempf & Margarita Tsoutsoura, 2021. "Partisan Professionals: Evidence from Credit Rating Analysts," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 76(6), pages 2805-2856, December.
    19. Jiménez, Juan Luis & Perdiguero, Jordi & Gutiérrez, Inmaculada, 2022. "Bias in media coverage of antitrust actions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    20. Anna Kerkhof & Johannes Münster, 2021. "Detecting coverage bias in user-generated content," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 057, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    21. Pavel Yakovlev & David Gilson, 2015. "Public Trust and Press Freedom," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 35(1), pages 214-225.

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