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Can media drive the electorate? The impact of media coverage on voting intentions

A growing literature uses media data to explain perception and behaviour in the economic and political context. In this paper, we investigate how media coverage affects political preferences, namely voting intention.

For our empirical analysis, we merge 14 years of human-coded data obtained from leading media in Germany with results of the comprehensive German Politbarometer survey from February 1998 through December 2012.

In contrast to the existing literature, we do not utilize access to certain media outlets, but use the tonality of articles and newscasts on political parties and politicians based on human coded media data.

To account for endogeneity, we employ instrumental variable probit estimations. In addition, we control for a multitude of (internal) personal characteristics, such as age, and gender, as well as for (external) macroeconomic variables, such as business climate, unemployment, and inflation.

The results show that media coverage of a political party has a positive and significant effect on the voting intention for this party. When media outlets cover a political party more positively, the electorate has a greater tendency to vote for it.

Hence, we conclude that the electoral success or failure of political parties is at least partially caused by the media coverage on them. This hints on the special responsibility of media in democracies.

R. Dewenter, M. Linder, T. Thomas, Can media drive the electorate? The impact of media coverage on voting intentions, European Journal of Political Economy 58 (2019) 245-261.

Tobias Thomas

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