Media Coverage, Public Interest, and Support in Primary Elections
34 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2015 Last revised: 15 Jun 2017
Date Written: August 11, 2016
Media coverage, public interest, and support for candidates interact to winnow the field in primary elections long before any voting begins. Yet, we know little about how these processes interact. We contend that producers of news face competing incentives to cover candidates: journalistic norms encourage coverage of electorally viable candidates, while market incentives encourage coverage of candidates that attract viewers. Media coverage also influences interest and support, leading to an endogenous system where media coverage is both a cause and effect of public opinion. Using daily data from the 2012 and 2016 Republican presidential primaries and models for endogenous processes, we demonstrate that media coverage is responsive to changes in public interest. Media coverage also has lasting effects on public interest in candidates and support for those candidates in polls. These results fuel concerns that the media can unintentionally confer advantages on candidates who are controversial, radical, or otherwise unusual.
Keywords: elections, primaries, media, president, time series
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