A Distorting Mirror: Major Media Coverage of Americans’ Tax Policy Preferences

41 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2018

See all articles by Daniel Chomsky

Daniel Chomsky

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) (Formerly University of Texas-Pan American) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 17, 2018

Abstract

Over the last four decades, Americans have consistently told pollsters that they favor higher taxes on business and the wealthy, even as tax policy has moved sharply in the other direction. Political scientists and political commentators regularly assume that elected officials respond to the preferences of citizens, despite recent findings that the correlations between public preferences and policy outcomes disappear when accounting for the preferences of the wealthy. This paper quantitatively assesses the failure of democratic responsiveness on this issue. It examines coverage of American’s tax policy preferences in two major national newspapers, the New York Times and USA Today. Both newspapers exhibit nearly identical behavior: they privilege elite sources, ignore the voices of ordinary citizens, and misrepresent public preferences. They also highlight expressions of public opposition to taxes and suppress evidence of persistent public support for higher taxes on business and the wealthy.

Keywords: Tax Policy, Democratic Theory, Mass Media, Public Opinion, New York Times, USA Today

JEL Classification: D72, H20, H30, L82, M38, P16, Z1

Suggested Citation

Chomsky, Daniel, A Distorting Mirror: Major Media Coverage of Americans’ Tax Policy Preferences (April 17, 2018). Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Paper Series No. 73. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3228781 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3228781

Daniel Chomsky (Contact Author)

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) (Formerly University of Texas-Pan American) - Department of Political Science ( email )

1201 W University Drive
Edinburg, TX
United States

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