Attitudes Toward the News Media and American Voting Behavior

41 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2008

See all articles by Jonathan McDonald Ladd

Jonathan McDonald Ladd

Georgetown University - Department of Government

Date Written: October 1, 2007


As an institution, the news media in the United States are highly unpopular. Yet, we know little about the consequences of this unpopularity for American politics. This paper examines the effect of attitudes toward the news media on voter decision-making. Utilizing a simple Bayesian model of voting, I predict those with negative attitudes toward the press will base their votes more on partisan predispositions and less on contemporary messages. Analyses of American National Election Studies and General Social Survey data are consistent with these expectations. Among those with more negative attitudes toward the news media, party identification has more influence and current economic conditions less influence on voting preferences. I estimate declining confidence in the institutional press could account for 47 percent of the increase in partisan voting over the past 35 years. Negative attitudes toward the media appear to be an important source of polarization in the American political system.

Keywords: public opinion, mass media, elections, political communication, persuasion

Suggested Citation

Ladd, Jonathan McDonald, Attitudes Toward the News Media and American Voting Behavior (October 1, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan McDonald Ladd (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Government ( email )

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