Saturday, April 15, 2006

Fox News

Does media affect voting? Activists on both sides of the aisle claim that the media is biased, but does exposure to biased media affect how people vote? Another of my first year TF's, Stefano DellaVigna, and a co-author, Ethan Kaplan, examine the effect of the introduction of Fox News on voting for Republicans. DellaVigna and Kaplan argue that the timing of the introduction of Fox News in communities is largely random. This allows them to use a difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effects of exposure to Fox News on voting. That is, they compare the change in voting in communities that were "treated" with Fox News to the change in voting in "control" communities. Here is the abstract for their paper:

Does media bias affect voting? We address this question by looking at the entry of Fox News in cable markets and its impact on voting. Between October 1996 and November 2000, the conservative Fox News Channel was introduced in the cable programming of 20 percent of US towns. Fox News availability in 2000 appears to be largely idiosyncratic. Using a data set of voting data for 9,256 towns, we investigate if Republicans gained vote share in towns where Fox News entered the cable market by the year 2000. We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gain 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News. The results are robust to town-level controls, district and county fixed effects, and alternative specifications. We also find a significant effect of Fox News on Senate vote share and on voter turnout. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its viewers to vote Republican. We interpret the results in light of a simple model of voter learning about media bias and about politician quality. The Fox News effect could be a temporary learning effect for rational voters, or a permanent effect for voters subject to non-rational persuasion.

Update -- If you find this interesting, there may be a potential term paper here looking at the effect of the introduction of Fox News on campaign contributions to Republicans (and maybe extending things to look at the effect of the introduction of CNN). The empirics would be fairly simple (largely just doing the same stuff DellaVigna and Kaplan do), but the data work might be a bit tricky. I have worked with the FEC data, so I could provide you with much of the code that you would need. But there would likely still be a fair amount of data work.

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