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American Economic Journal: Applied Economics: Vol. 1 No. 2 (April 2009)

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Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions

Article Citation

Gerber, Alan S., Dean Karlan, and Daniel Bergan. 2009. "Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(2): 35-52.

DOI: 10.1257/app.1.2.35

Abstract

We conducted a field experiment to measure the effect of exposure to newspapers on political behavior and opinion. Before the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election, we randomly assigned individuals to a Washington Post free subscription treatment, a Washington Times free subscription treatment, or a control treatment. We find no effect of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data. However, receiving either paper led to more support for the Democratic candidate, suggesting that media slant mattered less in this case than media exposure. Some evidence from voting records also suggests that receiving either paper led to increased 2006 voter turnout. (JEL D72, L82)

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Authors

Gerber, Alan S. (Yale U)
Karlan, Dean (Yale U and Innovations for Poverty Action, New Haven, CT)
Bergan, Daniel (MI State U)

JEL Classifications

D72: Models of Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
L82: Entertainment; Media

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American Economic Journal: Applied Economics


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