Television and Voter Turnout

43 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2004

See all articles by Matthew Gentzkow

Matthew Gentzkow

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 2005


I use variation across markets in the timing of television's introduction to identify its impact on voter turnout. The estimated effect is significantly negative, accounting for between a quarter and a half of the total decline in turnout since the 1950s. I argue that substitution away from other media with more political coverage provides a plausible mechanism linking television to voting. As evidence for this, I show that the entry of television in a market coincided with sharp drops in consumption of newspapers and radio, and in political knowledge as measured by election surveys. I also show that both the information and turnout effects were largest in off-year congressional elections, which receive extensive coverage in newspapers but little or no coverage on television.

Keywords: Television, tv, voting, voter turnout

JEL Classification: P16, L82, O33

Suggested Citation

Gentzkow, Matthew Aaron, Television and Voter Turnout (November 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Aaron Gentzkow (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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