NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Partisan Bias in Economic News: Evidence on the Agenda-Setting Behavior of U.S. Newspapers

Valentino Larcinese, Riccardo Puglisi, James M. Snyder, Jr.

NBER Working Paper No. 13378
Issued in September 2007
NBER Program(s):   POL

We study the agenda-setting political behavior of a large sample of U.S. newspapers during the last decade, and the behavior of smaller samples for longer time periods. Our purpose is to examine the intensity of coverage of economic issues as a function of the underlying economic conditions and the political affiliation of the incumbent president, focusing on unemployment, inflation, the federal budget and the trade deficit. We investigate whether there is any significant correlation between the endorsement policy of newspapers, and the differential coverage of bad/good economic news as a function of the president's political affiliation. We find evidence that newspapers with pro-Democratic endorsement pattern systematically give more coverage to high unemployment when the incumbent president is a Republican than when the president is Democratic, compared to newspapers with pro-Republican endorsement pattern. This result is not driven by the partisanship of readers. There is on the contrary no evidence of a partisan bias -- or at least of a bias that is correlated with the endorsement policy -- for stories on inflation, budget deficit or trade deficit.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13378

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