In this paper, I argue that the national political environment can meaningfully affect variation in aggregate demand for partisan media. I focus on the relationship between the political context—namely, political advantage and disadvantage derived from elections—and media demand in the form of partisan newspaper subscriptions. Using a dataset that characterizes the partisan slant of local newspapers and their circulation levels between 1932 and 2004, I find that when parties are electorally advantaged in presidential contests, demand for their affiliated newspapers decreases relative to demand for papers affiliated with disadvantaged parties. I uncover evidence of similar patterns in a case study of Florida newspapers, and I also compare the power of presidential versus congressional outcomes in shaping feelings of advantage and disadvantage. Taken together, these results provide evidence of a negative link between political advantage derived from presidential elections and the relative demand for partisan news.
“Political Advantage, Disadvantage, and Partisans’ Information Search.”
Elections are primarily thought of as opportunities for voters to select the officials who will represent them in government. Yet the fanfare surrounding campaigns and elections can also affect citizens’ behavior, namely their media consumption patterns. This paper explores the extent to which political advantage and disadvantage—derived from expectations about the two parties’ performances in a future election—affect information seeking. I focus on political advantage and disadvantage because they promote emotions that the literature suggests can meaningfully influence information seeking. I collect original experimental data in two studies—one of which uses the Dynamic Process Tracing Environment (DPTE)—that manipulate beliefs about the parties’ performances in upcoming elections. In my analysis of how those expectations influence demand for news, I find evidence that political advantage tends to dampen information seeking about politics, particularly among the most ardent partisans.
Co-authored with Joshua D. Clinton
The press is thought essential for creating an informed citizenry, but its existence depends on attracting an audience and earning a profit. It is unclear whether business demands – including those dictated by the owners of the media – affect how the media cover politics, yet this question is essential given their abilities to set the news agenda and frame issues in ways that greatly affect public opinion. We examine how ownership influences media behavior by investigating the impact of Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in August 2007. We collect data on every front-page story and editorial for 27 months, and we compare the difference in political coverage between the New York Times (NYT) and WSJ using a difference-in-differences design. We show that while the political content of the opinion pages of the two papers were unchanged by the sale, the WSJ’s front-page coverage of politics increased markedly relative to that of the NYT. We estimate that it took several months for the impact to be perceived, and it was not until the end of 2008 that the systematic increase in political coverage by the WSJ was perceptible. Our finding highlights potential limits to journalists’ ability to fulfill their supposed “watchdog” role in democracies without interference from owners in the boardroom.
Co-authored with Cindy D. Kam and John G. Geer
In this paper, we examine the ways in which citizens emotionally react to and cognitively process campaign advertisements that contain group-based appeals. Specifically, we focus on the emotional, cognitive, and persuasive effects of three campaign ads aired during the 2012 election campaign that contained explicit appeals to women voters. We analyze differences across women and men in their emotional responses to the ads, in their reports of the memorability of the ads, in their cognitive engagement with the ads, and in how persuasive the ads were for vote choice. In so doing, we add nuance to studies of gender and campaigns and contribute to the expanding literature on the impact of strategic campaign communications. [DOI 10.1007/s11109-016-9347-7]
“What Appeals Are Most Effective at Recruiting Targeted Samples for Survey Research?”
Co-authored with Cecilia H. Mo
Though nationally representative samples are often deemed the gold standard in survey and experimental work, certain research questions require the study of narrower populations. For instance, scholars studying bureaucrats, legislative staff members or foreign aid workers may need to recruit from such specific populations. We attempt to understand which rhetorical strategies are most effective in asking members associated with specific organizations—Teach For Australia, in our case—to participate in research. We randomly assigned former Teach For Australia applicants to one of seven messages encouraging their participation in an ongoing impact evaluation study, and find that for those with a connection to the organization (i.e., those previously admitted to the program), appeals inducing cognitive dissonance are the most effective. For those not previously not admitted, emphasizing monetary rewards in exchange for participation is most successful. Finally, appeals using peer pressure and emphasizing volunteerism were consistently the least effective messages.