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Voters might like to think that they cannot be swayed by the influence of media endorsements, but Brian Knight and Chun Fang Chiang, researchers at Brown University, recently published a study in The Review of Economic Studies which states that media endorsements do have a significant effect of the decisions of voters. However, it is noted that voters do still make a somewhat complex analysis of these endorsements.
The findings of this study do indicate that potential voters are more likely to vote for a candidate after he or she has been endorsed by a newspaper. However, the relative credibility of the candidate selected by the newspaper does still determine the extent of the newspaper endorsement’s influence on voter decision making. The researchers noted that potential voters do take the political bias of the newspaper or publication into account when analyzing the endorsement of a candidate. For example, the endorsement of a left-wing candidate by a left-biased media publication is viewed by voters as less credible than a neutral or right-wing publication’s endorsement of a left-wing candidate. The same would apply to endorsements of a right-wing candidate. The authors note that this suggests that a thorough analysis of a candidate is conducted by the voters prior to being swayed by an endorsement.
The researchers carefully examined the intended votes and newspaper reading habits of eligible participants prior to the 2000 and 2004 elections. They conducted an analysis of credibility that was determined by the political leanings of the publications and the readership.
The authors used the resulting information to examine the top 20 publications in the nation during the months leading up to the 2000 presidential election. For that particular election, The New York Times endorsements for Al Gore and Dallas Morning News endorsements for George W. Bush were found to have low credibility because less than 1% of the readers participating in the study were influenced to favor the candidate endorsed over their intended vote. However, other publications, such as The Chicago Sun Times and The Denver Post, which featured seemingly unlikely endorsements were found to have high credibility because roughly 3% of the readers participating in the study were influenced to change their intended vote to the candidate endorsed by these publications. Of all participants in the study, it was determined that moderate voters were the most likely to be swayed by an endorsement by a newspaper, especially the surprise endorsements made for unlikely candidates.