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The Impact of State Television on Voter Turnout

  • Rune J. Sørensen

Abstract

In an influential study, Matthew Gentzkow found that the introduction of TV in the United States caused a major drop in voter turnout. In contrast, the current analysis shows that public broadcasting TV can increase political participation. Detailed data on the rollout of television in Norway in the 1960s and 1970s are combined with municipality-level data on voter turnout over a period of four decades. The date of access to TV signals was mostly a side effect of geography, a feature that is used to identify causal effects. Additional analyses exploit individual-level panel data from three successive election studies. The new TV medium instantly became a major source of political information. It triggered political interest and caused a modest, but statistically significant, increase in voter turnout.

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Norwegian Business School, Oslo (email: rune.sorensen@bi.no). This article has benefitted from useful comments and suggestions at presentations at the department seminar at Department of Economics, Norwegian Business School, the 36th Annual Meeting of the Norwegian Association of Economists, 6–7 January 2014 in Oslo, and at a seminar at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo on 24 August 2015. I particularly appreciate helpful comments and suggestions by Per Tovmo (Department of Economics, NTNU-Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim), Benny Geys (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, VUB/BI), Andreas Kotsadam (Frisch Center, Oslo) and Jon H. Fiva (Norwegian Business School). I am also grateful for the valuable criticism and suggestions offered by the journal’s three anonymous reviewers. Data replication sets are available at http://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS, and online appendices are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S000712341600048X.

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The Impact of State Television on Voter Turnout

  • Rune J. Sørensen

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