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Partisan Cues and the Media: Information Flows in the 1992 Presidential Election

  • Russell J. Dalton (a1), Paul A. Beck (a2) and Robert Huckfeldt (a3)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2585932
  • Published online: 01 August 2014
Abstract

Electoral research acknowledges the growing significance of the mass media in contemporary campaigns, but scholars are divided on the nature of this influence. Using a unique database that includes both media content and public opinion, we examine the flow of partisan information from newspapers to the voters and assess the press's role in electoral politics and citizen learning. We find that the American press does not present clear and singular messages about presidential elections but, rather, multiple messages about the candidates and the campaign. In addition, perception of the information is shaped as much by an individual's political views as by the objective content. Despite the mixed messages, we find that a newspaper's editorial content is significantly related to candidate preferences in 1992. These results challenge the minimal effects interpretation of the media, because local newspapers can play a significant role in providing cues that influence voters' electoral calculus.

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Lawrence Bartels . 1993. “Messages Received: The Political Impact of Media Exposure.” American Political Science Review 87(06):267–85.

Paul A. Beck 1991. “Voters' Intermediation Environments in the 1988 Presidential Contest.” Public Opinion Quarterly 55(Fall):371–94.

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Robert Erikson . 1976. “The Influence of Newspaper Endorsements in Presidential Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 20(05):207–34.

Robert Huckfeldt , Paul Beck , and Russell Dalton . 1995. “Political Environments, Cohesive Social Groups, and the Communication of Public Opinion.” American Journal of Political Science 39(11):1025–54.

Shanto Iyengar . 1991. Is Anyone Responsible? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

John Robinson . 1974. “Perceived Media Bias and the 1968 Vote.” Journalism Quarterly 49(Summer):239–46.

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Ruediger Schmitt-Beck . 1996. “Mass Media, the Electorate, and the Bandwagon: A Study of Communication Effects on Vote Choice in Germany.” International Journal of Public Opinion Research 8(Fall):266–91.

Robert Vallone , Lee Ross , and Mark Lepper . 1985. “The Hostile Media Phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the Beirut Massacre.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49(09):577–88.

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John Zaller . 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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