Newspapers and political accountability: evidence from Japan
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This study examines the effects of local and national newspapers on local political accountability. Local newspapers are expected to monitor local governments’ behavior. However, national newspapers could also contribute to local governments’ accountability by attracting nationwide attention to a local policy issue. Using the method developed by Snyder and Strömberg (J Polit Econ 118:355–408, 2010), I construct a variable that measures the weighted market share of locally circulated newspapers in an administrative district in Japan. I find that an increase in the market share of local newspapers is associated with a reduction in local public works spending (seen as rents for local interest groups), which indicates an improvement in political accountability. In addition, the accountability effect of local newspapers becomes greater one year after national newspapers focus readers’ attentions on the issue of unnecessary public works. This result suggests that national newspapers serve as an agenda setter and complement local newspapers for strengthening local political accountability.
KeywordsLocal newspapers National newspapers Local political accountability Public works
JEL ClassificationD72 H72 L82
I am grateful to an anonymous referee whose comments considerably improved the paper.
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