Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 16 > Issue 4

Do Newspapers Benefit Incumbents? Evidence from Denmark 1849–1915

Alexander Fouirnaies, Harris School, The University of Chicago, USA, fouirnaies@uchicago.edu
Suggested Citation
Alexander Fouirnaies (2021), "Do Newspapers Benefit Incumbents? Evidence from Denmark 1849–1915", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 16: No. 4, pp 505-532. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00019054

Publication Date: 18 Oct 2021
© 2021 A. Fouirnaies
Elections,  European politics,  Comparative politics,  Democratization,  Political economy
ElectionsEuropean politicscomparative politicsdemocratizationpolitical economyinformation systems and groupscommunication media


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In this article:
Elections and Newspapers in Denmark 1849–1915 
New Data on Parliamentary Elections and Local Newspapers 
Empirical Strategy 
Office Holders Enjoy Press-Coverage Advantage 
Newspapers Increase Reelection Rates 
Larger Effect for Incumbent-Aligned Newspapers 


Scholars have long been interested in how the media shapes electoral accountability, but most of the existing empirical evidence suffers from endogeneity issues. Exploiting the inflow of newspapers engendered by the abolition of censorship in Denmark, this paper studies how newspapers affect the advantages enjoyed by members of parliament. I collect a new dataset on parliamentary candidates (1849–1915) and link them to the complete universe of local Danish newspapers, as well as candidate-level information on news coverage obtained from a database of scanned newspaper pages. Employing a series of difference-in-differences and regression-discontinuity designs, I document three main findings. First, office holders enjoy privileged access to local press coverage. Second, the entry of local newspapers leads to an increase in reelection rates. Third, the benefits enjoyed by incumbents are most pronounced when MPs and newspaper editors are affiliated with the same political party. Taken together, these findings could suggest that office holders in low-information environments benefit more directly from the presence of local media than previously assumed.