As Local News Goes, So Goes Citizen Engagement: Media, Knowledge, and Participation in U.S. House Elections

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SSRN Electronic Journal

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Danny Hayes; Jennifer L. Lawless
Elsevier BV
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article description
We propose a two-stage process to explain the relationship between the local news environment and citizen engagement. Our original content analysis of newspaper coverage in every U.S. House district during the 2010 midterms reveals that districts with uncompetitive races and those served by large-circulation outlets see significantly less, and less substantive, coverage than hotly contested districts and those served by smaller outlets. We then merge the news data with survey data from the 2010 CCES and find that a diminished news environment depresses citizen engagement. Citizens exposed to a lower volume of coverage are less able to evaluate their member of Congress, less likely to express opinions about the House candidates in their districts, and less likely to vote. This is true for people regardless of levels of political awareness, indicating that the deleterious consequences of a decline in local coverage are widespread, not restricted to the least attentive citizens.