Statistical Bias in Newspaper Reporting on Campaign Finance

23 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2003

See all articles by Stephen Ansolabehere

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University - Department of Government

Erik C. Snowberg

Independent

James M. Snyder

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science & Department of Economics

Date Written: October 31, 2003

Abstract

This paper examines evidence of statistical bias in newspaper reporting on campaign finance. We compile data on all dollar amounts for campaign expenditures, contributions, and receipts reported in the five largest circulation newspapers in the United States from 1996 to 2000. We then compare these figures to the universe of campaign expenditures, contributions and receipts, as recorded by the Federal Election Commission. The figures reported in newspaper accounts exceed the average expenditure and contribution by as much as eight fold. Press reporting also focuses excessively on corporations contributions and soft money, rather than on the more common types of donors - individual - and types of contributions - hard money. We further find that these biases are reflected in public perceptions of money in elections.

Keywords: campaign finance, news, media, elections

JEL Classification: D72, D78, L82

Suggested Citation

Ansolabehere, Stephen and Snowberg, Erik C. and Snyder, James M., Statistical Bias in Newspaper Reporting on Campaign Finance (October 31, 2003). MIT Economics Working Paper No. 03-36. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=463780 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.463780

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Erik C. Snowberg

Independent

No Address Available
United States

James M. Snyder (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science & Department of Economics ( email )

E53-457
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-2669 (Phone)

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