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Press Coverage and Political Accountability

  • James M. Snyder, Jr.
  • David Strömberg

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13878.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13878.

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Date of creation: Mar 2008
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Publication status: published as James M. Snyder & David Strömberg, 2010. "Press Coverage and Political Accountability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(2), pages 355-408, 04.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13878
Note: POL
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  1. Djankov, Simeon & Caralee, McLiesh & Nenova, Tatiana & Shleifer, Andrei, 2003. "Who Owns the Media?," Scholarly Articles 3606236, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Riordan, Michael H, 1984. "Advertising as a Signal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 427-50, June.
  3. 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, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 807-859, August.
  4. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy Of Government Responsiveness: Theory And Evidence From India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451, November.
  5. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
  6. 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.
  7. Nelson, Philip, 1974. "Advertising as Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 729-54, July/Aug..
  8. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
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