Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 November 2020
Has the decline in traditional sources of local news contributed to the nationalization of U.S. elections? I hypothesize that local news coverage mitigates nationalization by providing voters with information that allows them to assess down-ballot candidates separately from their national, partisan assessment. The geography of media markets places some voters in a neighboring state’s market and others in in-state markets. I demonstrate that residents of in-state markets have access to vastly more local television news coverage of their governor and U.S. senators, and this increased coverage translates into greater knowledge of these officeholders. Further, access to in-state television news substantially increases split-ticket voting in gubernatorial and senatorial races. Supplementary analyses provide strong evidence that the estimated effects are not the result of unobserved differences between residents of in-state and out-of-state media markets. These results imply that local news coverage attenuates the nationalization of elections even in the present polarized context.
I am grateful to the editors and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback and guidance. I would also like to thank Steve Ansolabehere, Scott Ashworth, Pamela Ban, Riley Carney, Anthony Fowler, Chris Lucas, Eric Moskowitz, Rachel Moskowitz, Stephen Pettigrew, Tobi Resch, Jon Rogowski, Ben Schneer, and Jim Snyder for helpful comments and suggestions throughout the course of the project. In addition, I am grateful for invaluable feedback from seminar participants at the Harris School, Harvard, NYU, Rochester, and UCSD. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/HDDPTB.