Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 13 > Issue 4

The Print Media and the American Party System: Evidence from the 2016 US Presidential Election

Michael P. Olson, Department of Government, Harvard University, USA, michaelolson@g.harvard.edu
Suggested Citation
Michael P. Olson (2018), "The Print Media and the American Party System: Evidence from the 2016 US Presidential Election", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 13: No. 4, pp 405-426. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00017115

Publication Date: 30 Oct 2018
© 2018 M. P. Olson
Elections,  Political parties
Presidential electionsmedianewspaper endorsementsthird parties


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In this article:
The Media and Third-Party Voting 
Context: The Richmond Times-Dispatch 
Empirical Strategy 
Discussion and Conclusion 


Does the ability of newspapers to influence readers' political choices extend to third parties? In this paper, I exploit a rare third-party endorsement by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the 2016 US Presidential election to evaluate whether voters can be persuaded by the print media to vote for an unorthodox alternative. To establish the causal effect of this endorsement, I exploit discontinuous access to the newspaper at the edges of its delivery area, combined with ZIP Code-level data on newspaper readership and vote totals. Estimates suggest that this endorsement's persuasion rate was similar to those reported in previous research on major-party endorsements, despite the substantial barriers faced by third parties and their potential supporters. This suggests that newspapers could draw voters away from major parties if they more frequently endorsed and covered them and, consequently, that the typical pattern of endorsing and covering major parties buttresses the Democratic--Republican party system.