Is newspaper coverage of economic events politically biased?
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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.
KeywordsMedia bias Voting Campaigns
We would like to thank John Cogan, James Hamilton, Joe Harrington, Larry Kenny, Mark Klamer, Sam Peltzman, Florenz Plassmann, Alex Tabarrok and the participants in seminars at the University of Texas, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Canterbury (NZ), and the University of Maryland for their comments. Brian Blase, Jill Mitchell, Gordon Gray, Refael Lav, Aarif Morbi, Neil Dutta, Robert Harrison, and Robert Jeffrey for their helpful research assistance.
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