Skip to main content Accessibility help

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

  • Russell J. Dalton (a1), Paul A. Beck (a2) and Robert Huckfeldt (a3)


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.



Hide All
Ansolabehere, Steven, and Iyengar, Shanto. 1995. Going Negative: How Attack Ads Shrink and Polarize the Electorate. New York: Free Press.
Bagdikian, Ben. 1992. The Media Monopoly, 4th ed. Boston: Beacon Press.
Bartels, Lawrence. 1993. “Messages Received: The Political Impact of Media Exposure.” American Political Science Review 87(06):267–85.
Beck, Paul A. 1991. “Voters' Intermediation Environments in the 1988 Presidential Contest.” Public Opinion Quarterly 55(Fall):371–94.
Beck, Paul A., Dalton, Russell J., and Huckfeldt, Robert. 1995. Cross-national Election Studies: United States Study, 1992 [computer file]. ICPSR version. Columbus, OH: Paul A. Beck, Ohio State University/Irvine, CA: Russell J. Dalton, University of California/Bloomington, IN: Robert Huckfeldt, Indiana University [producers]. 1993. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]. 1995.
Becker, Lee, and Kosicki, Gerald. 1995. “Understanding the Message-producer/Message-receiver Transaction,” Research in Political Sociology 7:3362.
Bennett, W. Lance. 1995. News: The Politics of Illusion, 3d ed. New York: Longman.
Berelson, Bernard, Lazarsfeld, Paul, and McPhee, William. 1954. Voting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Biocca, Frank. 1988. “Opposing Conceptions of the Audience: The Active and Passive Hemispheres of Mass Communication Theory.” In Communication Yearbook, ed. Anderson, J.. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Brians, Craig, and Wattenberg, Martin. 1997. “Negative Political Advertising: Mobilizing or Demobilizing?University of California, Irvine. Typescript.
Chaffee, Steven D., and Schleuder, J. D.. 1986. “Measurement and Effects of Attention to News Media.” Human Communication Research 13(Fall):76107.
Converse, Philip. 1966. “Information Flow and the Stability of Partisan Attitudes.” In Elections and the Political Order, ed. Campbell, A. et al. New York: Wiley.
Coombs, Steven. 1981. “Editorial Endorsements and Electoral Outcomes.” In More than News, ed. MacKuen, Michael and Coombs, Steven. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
Curtice, John, and Semetko, Holli. 1994. “Does It Matter What the Papers Say?” In Labour's Last Chance?, ed. Heath, Anthony, Jowell, Roger, and Curtice, John. Aldershot, VT: Dartmouth.
Dalton, Russell, Beck, Paul, Huckfeldt, Robert, and Koetzle, William. 1995. “Agenda Setting in the 1992 Campaign: The Flow of Campaign Information.” Presented at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.
Donsbach, Wolfgang. 1990. “Wahrnehmung von redaktionellen Tendenzen durch Zeitungsleser,” Medienpsychologie 2(Fall):275301.
Edelman, Murray. 1988. Constructing the Political Spectacle. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Erikson, Robert. 1976. “The Influence of Newspaper Endorsements in Presidential Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 20(05):207–34.
Graber, Doris. 1993. Mass Media and American Politics 4th ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Huckfeldt, Robert, Beck, Paul, and Dalton, Russell. 1995. “Political Environments, Cohesive Social Groups, and the Communication of Public Opinion.” American Journal of Political Science 39(11):1025–54.
Iyengar, Shanto. 1991. Is Anyone Responsible? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Iyengar, Shanto, and Kinder, Donald. 1987. News that Matters. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Just, Marion, Criegler, Ann, Alger, Dean, and Cook, Timothy. 1996. Crosstalk: Citizens, Candidates, and the Media in a Presidential Campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Klapper, Joseph. 1960. The Effects of Mass Communication. Glencoe: The Free Press.
Lazarsfeld, Paul, Berelson, Bernard, and Gaudet, Hazel. 1948. The People's Choice. New York: Columbia University Press.
McGuire, William. 1985. “Attitudes and Attitude Change.” In The Handbook of Political Psychology, ed. Aronson, Elliot and Lindzey, Gardner. Vol. 2, 3d ed. New York: Random House.
McLeod, Jack, Kosicki, Gerald, and McLeod, Douglas. 1994. “The Expanding Boundaries of Political Communication Effects.” In Media Effects, ed. Bryant, Jennings and Zillmann, Dolf. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Neuman, W. Russell. 1986. The Paradox of Mass Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Neuman, W. Russell, Just, Marion, and Crigler, Ann. 1992. Common Knowledge: News and the Construction of Political Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Niemi, Richard. 1974. How Family Members Perceive Each Other. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. 1973. “Return to the Concept of Powerful Mass Media.” Studies of Broadcasting 9(Spring):67112.
Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. 1984. The Spiral of Silence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Patterson, Thomas. 1980. The Mass Media Election. New York: Praeger.
Patterson, Thomas. 1993. Out of Order. New York: Knopf.
Pomper, Gerald, ed. 1993. The Election of 1992. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.
Robinson, John. 1974. “Perceived Media Bias and the 1968 Vote.” Journalism Quarterly 49(Summer):239–46.
Ross, Lee, Bierbrauer, Gunter, and Hoffman, Susan. 1976. “The Role of Attribution Processes in Conformity and Dissent.” American Psychologist 31(02):148–57.
Rubin, Richard. 1981. Press, Party and Presidency. New York: Norton.
Sabato, Lawrence. 1991. Feeding Frenzy. New York: Free Press.
Schmitt-Beck, Ruediger. 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.
Semetko, Holli. 1996. “The Importance of Issues in Election Campaigns.” Presented at the annual meetings of the European Consortium for Political Research, Oslo, Norway.
Semetko, Holli, Blumer, Jay, Guveuitch, Michael, and Weaver, David. 1991. The Formation of Campaign Agendas. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Stanley, Harold, and Niemi, Richard. 1994. Vital Statistics on American Politics. Washington: CQ Press.
Stempel, Guido, and Windhauser, John, ed. 1991. The Media in the 1984 and 1988 Presidential Campaigns. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Vallone, Robert, Ross, Lee, and Lepper, Mark. 1981. “Perceptions of Media Bias in a Presidential Election.” Stanford University. Typescript.
Vallone, Robert, Ross, Lee, and Lepper, Mark. 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.
Weaver, David. 1980. “Audience Need for Orientation and Media Effects,” Communication Research 7(07):361–76.
Weisberg, Herbert, ed. 1994. Democracy's Feast. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.
Zaller, John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Zaller, John. 1996. “The Myth of Massive Media Impact Revived: New Support for a Discredited Idea.” In Political Persuasion and Attitude Change, ed. Mutz, Diane, Sniderman, Paul, and Brody, Richard (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed