Monday, December 07, 2009

More reasons to not worry about the demise of newspapers

People, you don't need newspapers, you got KPC for FREE! But (as our beloved president loves to say) some would argue that newspapers serve an essential role in a democracy by influencing the electoral process.

Well, not so much, according to a new NBER working paper by Gentzkow, Shapiro, and Sinkinson (ungated version here):

We use new data on entries and exits of US daily newspapers from 1869 to 2004 to estimate effects on political participation, party vote shares, and electoral competitiveness. Our identification strategy exploits the precise timing of these events and allows for the possibility of confounding trends. We find that newspapers have a robust positive effect on political participation, with one additional newspaper increasing both presidential and congressional turnout by approximately 0.3 percentage points. Newspaper competition is not a key driver of turnout: our effect is driven mainly by the first newspaper in a market, and the effect of a second or third paper is significantly smaller. The effect on presidential turnout diminishes after the introduction of radio and television, while the estimated effect on congressional turnout remains similar up to recent years. We find no evidence that partisan newspapers affect party vote shares, with confidence intervals that rule out even moderate-sized effects. We find no clear evidence that newspapers systematically help or hurt incumbents.

So to sum up, newspapers don't affect the composition of the vote and since the introduction of radio and then television (i.e. for a long, long time) have only a very small influence on the size of the vote. 

Hey, but at least they do have Dilbert!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Newspapers are an important tool of propaganda. For example, Lincoln, the president that continually rates among historians as the greatest, demonstrated what a useful tool newspapers could play in his war. Northern newspapers that sympathized with the southern cause (there were many) were forced to change or were shut down; editors were often arrested and sent Fort Lafayette or the "American Bastille."

-On the internet, anybody can start a blog. But us mindless drones known as civilians cannot discriminate between facts and lies according to the "keep newspapers alive even though they're unprofitable" line of thought. The most popular blogs are regulated in the much more effective way: free-market regulation--thus when a popular blogger posts questionable data, critics are quick to pounce upon any mistakes. There are pieces about Krugman saying something stupid in his blog practically every day.
--high voter turnout is not a good thing. Is it really a positive thing when people who tune into politics once every 4 years and take the campaign rhetoric at face value are turning out to vote in high numbers?