Is Newspaper Coverage of Economic Events Politically Biased?

63 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2013 Last revised: 25 Jul 2017

See all articles by John R. Lott

John R. Lott

Crime Prevention Research Center

Kevin A. Hassett

American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 1, 2013


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 news coverage to the same economic news when Democrats are in the White House than when Republicans are, and 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 highly 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.

Keywords: media bias, voting

JEL Classification: D10, D80

Suggested Citation

Lott, John R. and Hassett, Kevin A., Is Newspaper Coverage of Economic Events Politically Biased? (September 1, 2013). Public Choice, July 2014, 65-108, Available at SSRN: or

John R. Lott (Contact Author)

Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )

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Kevin A. Hassett

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) ( email )

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