As Local News Goes, So Goes Citizen Engagement: Media, Knowledge, and Participation in U.S. House Elections

42 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2014 Last revised: 25 Oct 2014

See all articles by Danny Hayes

Danny Hayes

George Washington University

Jennifer L. Lawless

American University

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

We propose a two-stage process to explain the relationship between the local news environment and citizen engagement. Our original content analysis of newspaper coverage in every U.S. House district during the 2010 midterms reveals that districts with uncompetitive races and those served by large-circulation outlets see significantly less, and less substantive, coverage than hotly contested districts and those served by smaller outlets. We then merge the news data with survey data from the 2010 CCES and find that a diminished news environment depresses citizen engagement. Citizens exposed to a lower volume of coverage are less able to evaluate their member of Congress, less likely to express opinions about the House candidates in their districts, and less likely to vote. This is true for people regardless of levels of political awareness, indicating that the deleterious consequences of a decline in local coverage are widespread, not restricted to the least attentive citizens.

Suggested Citation

Hayes, Danny and Lawless, Jennifer L., As Local News Goes, So Goes Citizen Engagement: Media, Knowledge, and Participation in U.S. House Elections (2014). American University School of Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2014-0004; APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2452076 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2452076

Danny Hayes (Contact Author)

George Washington University ( email )

2115 G St. NW
Monroe Hall 440
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Jennifer L. Lawless

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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