August 06, 2018

Nicholas Clark, associate professor of political science Nicholas Clark, associate professor of political scienceDiscrepancy May Lead to Misinformed Gubernatorial Voting

New research from Nicholas Clark, associate professor of political science, finds that the tone of local media does not give people an accurate idea of current economic conditions, leading to a more positive view of their governor’s performance in office.

The study examines the connection between media coverage, economic conditions and performance evaluations of political leaders by the public, finding room for improvement in local news coverage.

“A key finding in this study is the weak correlation between unemployment and the positivity of media coverage, which suggests that local media coverage is anything but perfectly reflective of economic conditions,” said Clark, author of the study.

“Local media outlets may serve to inform individuals about the state of the economy and to contextualize economic performance within the local and national settings, but at other times, local outlets may simply be leading individuals away from accurate assessments of the national economy.”

To determine what effect local media coverage and economic conditions has on the public’s opinion of political leaders, the researcher studied 144 media markets as well as county-level unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“These findings don’t give us much confidence in the public’s ability to exercise accountability over decision-makers,” Clark said. “Ideally, the media would enable the public to identify the policies that contribute to a weak or strong economy, but this paper suggests that while the media can improve the public’s understanding of the economy, it does not always do so in practice.”

The paper, Local media tone, economic conditions, and the evaluation of US governors, is published in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties and coauthored by Todd Makse, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Florida International University.