Causes and consequences of news media content [electronic resource]
- Erik Peterson.
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- 1 online resource.
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- Peterson, Erik.
- Iyengar, Shanto, primary advisor.
- Grimmer, Justin, advisor.
- Hamilton, James, advisor.
- Stanford University. Department of Political Science.
- The nature of the news media's political influence depends crucially on the type and volume of political information that citizens encounter when they read, listen and watch the news. This dissertation examines the causes and consequences of this political coverage. The first paper introduces a new empirical approach to test two long-standing accounts of media bias in the mainstream press. Studying election predictions offered by several specialized media outlets that receive a prominent place in news coverage of congressional elections, I find evidence of an institutional bias in which media ratings are overly favorable towards the electoral prospects of incumbent politicians relative to their challengers. At the same time, this approach offers no evidence of a partisan bias in which these outlets favor candidates from one political party at the expense of the other. The second paper examines the consequences of the political information environment for the public's reliance on party labels to evaluate politicians. Using a doubly-randomized conjoint experiment and an observational study of voting in congressional elections, I show that greater amounts of information reduce the role of partisanship in candidate choice. These findings challenge competing claims that partisan cues inhibit responsiveness to such a degree that voters fail to use other information or that high-information environments increase voter reliance on partisanship. The third paper explores the consequences of a recent change in the local media environment. Newspapers produce political coverage read by a large number of readers, yet they do so with 30% fewer reporters and editors than a decade ago. This rapid decline is thought to pose a threat to the provision of political news. This paper employs two new sources of data to directly measure changes in newspaper staffing and examine their effect on newspapers' attention to local, state and national politics. I show that declines in staffing lead to less political coverage, an effect that is particularly pronounced for local political news. Given that newspapers serve as the primary source of original reporting on local politics, this suggests staffing declines have broad consequences for the local media environment.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
- Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
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