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Press Coverage and Political Accountability

Author

Listed:
  • James M. Snyder, Jr.
  • David Strömberg

Abstract

In this paper we estimate the impact of press coverage on citizen knowledge, politicians' actions, and policy. We find that a poor fit between newspaper markets and political districts reduces press coverage of politics. We use variation in this fit due to redistricting to identify the effects of reduced coverage. Exploring the links in the causal chain of media effects -- voter information, politicians' actions and policy -- we find statistically significant and substantively important effects. Voters living in areas with less coverage of their U.S. House representative are less likely to recall their representative's name, and less able to describe and rate them. Congressmen who are less covered by the local press work less for their constituencies: they are less likely to stand witness before congressional hearings, to serve on constituency-oriented committees (perhaps), and to vote against the party line. Finally, this congressional behavior affects policy. Federal spending is lower in areas where there is less press coverage of the local members of congress.

Suggested Citation

  • James M. Snyder, Jr. & David Strömberg, 2008. "Press Coverage and Political Accountability," NBER Working Papers 13878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13878
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Djankov, Simeon & et al, 2003. "Who Owns the Media?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 341-381, October.
    2. Brunetti, Aymo & Weder, Beatrice, 2003. "A free press is bad news for corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1801-1824, August.
    3. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
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    6. David S. Lee & Enrico Moretti & Matthew J. Butler, 2004. "Do Voters Affect or Elect Policies? Evidence from the U. S. House," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 807-859.
    7. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    8. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
    9. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221.
    10. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Riordan, Michael H, 1984. "Advertising as a Signal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 427-450, June.
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    12. Nelson, Philip, 1974. "Advertising as Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 729-754, July/Aug..
    13. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media

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