Does Newspaper Coverage Influence or Reflect Public Perceptions of the Economy?

Research and Politics, Forthcoming

16 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017

See all articles by Daniel J. Hopkins

Daniel J. Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

Eunji Kim

Vanderbilt University

Soojong Kim

Stanford University

Date Written: August 23, 2017


Citizens' economic perceptions can shape their political and economic behavior, making those perceptions' origins an important question. Research commonly posits that media coverage is a central source. Here, we test that prospect while considering the alternative hypothesis that media coverage instead echoes public perceptions. This paper applies a straightforward automated measure of the tone of economic coverage to 490,039 articles from 24 national and local media outlets over more than three decades. By matching the 245,947 survey respondents in the Survey of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior to measures of contemporaneous media coverage, we can assess the sequencing of changes in media coverage and public perceptions. Together, these data illustrate that newspaper coverage does not systematically precede public perceptions of the economy, a finding which analyses of television transcripts reinforce. Neither national nor local newspapers appear to strongly influence economic perceptions.

Keywords: Newspaper coverage; public opinion; consumer attitudes; media effects; framing

JEL Classification: E21, D12, H80, H31, D10

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, Daniel J. and Kim, Eunji and Kim, Soojong, Does Newspaper Coverage Influence or Reflect Public Perceptions of the Economy? (August 23, 2017). Research and Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States


Eunji Kim

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Soojong Kim

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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