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Local News and National Politics

  • GREGORY J. MARTIN (a1) and JOSHUA McCRAIN (a2)

Abstract

The level of journalistic resources dedicated to coverage of local politics is in a long-term decline in the US news media, with readership shifting to national outlets. We investigate whether this trend is demand- or supply-driven, exploiting a recent wave of local television station acquisitions by a conglomerate owner. Using extensive data on local news programming and viewership, we find that the ownership change led to (1) substantial increases in coverage of national politics at the expense of local politics, (2) a significant rightward shift in the ideological slant of coverage, and (3) a small decrease in viewership, all relative to the changes at other news programs airing in the same media markets. These results suggest a substantial supply-side role in the trends toward nationalization and polarization of politics news, with negative implications for accountability of local elected officials and mass polarization.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Gregory J. Martin, Assistant Professor of Political Economy, Stanford Graduate School of Business, gjmartin@stanford.edu.
Joshua McCrain, PhD Candidate in Political Science, Emory University, josh.mccrain@gmail.com.

Footnotes

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We thank Marcel Garz, Dan Hopkins, Josh Clinton, and seminar and workshop participants at the UCLA American Politics and Vanderbilt CSDI seminars, SPSA 2018, and MPSA 2018 for helpful comments and suggestions. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/G3X4EW.

Footnotes

References

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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