Tobias Thomas on the Impact of Media Coverage on Voting Intentions

May 29, 2019

In their article “Can media drive the electorate? The impact of media coverage on voting intentions”, published in European Journal of Political Economy, CMDS Fellow Tobias Thomas and co-authors Ralf Dewenter and Melissa Linder investigate how media coverage affects political preferences, namely voting intention. For the empirical analysis, the authors merge 14 years of human-coded data obtained from leading media in Germany with results of the comprehensive German Politbarometer survey from February 1998 through December 2012.

In contrast to the existing literature, the authors do not utilize access to certain media outlets, but use the tonality of articles and newscasts on political parties and politicians based on human coded media data. To account for endogeneity, they employ instrumental variable probit estimations. In addition, they control for a multitude of (internal) personal characteristics, such as age, and gender, as well as for (external) macroeconomic variables, such as business climate, unemployment, and inflation.

The results show that media coverage of a political party has a positive and significant effect on the voting intention for this party. When media outlets cover a political party more positively, the electorate has a greater tendency to vote for it. Hence, the authors conclude that the electoral success or failure of political parties is at least partially caused by the media coverage on them. This hints on the special responsibility of media in democracies.