Unsubscribed and Undemanding: Partisanship and the Minimal Effects of a Field Experiment Encouraging Local News Consumption

67 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2023

See all articles by Daniel J. Hopkins

Daniel J. Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

Tori Gorton

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 6, 2023

Abstract

Local newspapers convey extensive subnational political information but have dwindling audiences. In a nationalized and polarized information environment, can online interventions increase state/local news consumption and with what effects? We explore this question via a pre-registered experiment randomizing Pennsylvania residents (n=5,059) to staggered interventions encouraging news consumption from leading state newspapers. 2,529 individuals were offered free online subscriptions, but only 44 subscribed; we find little evidence of treatment effects on knowledge, engagement, or attitudes. We then administered a second treatment element---promoting subnational news directly via Facebook feeds---with a higher application rate but similarly limited impacts. Observational analyses of these respondents and separate national samples show that Democratic political partisanship has come to predict local newspaper subscriptions. Contemporary local newspapers may face a demand-side dilemma: the engaged citizens who formerly read them now prefer national, partisan content.

Keywords: Field experiment, news media, social media, nationalization

JEL Classification: H00, H40

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, Daniel J. and Gorton, Tori, Unsubscribed and Undemanding: Partisanship and the Minimal Effects of a Field Experiment Encouraging Local News Consumption (July 6, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4502329 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4502329

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.danhopkins.org

Tori Gorton

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science

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