Not Dead Yet: Political Learning from Newspapers in a Changing Media Landscape
Shrinking audiences and political coverage cutbacks threaten newspapers’ ability to inform the public about politics. Despite substantial theorizing and widespread concern, it remains unclear how much the public can learn from these struggling news sources. I link measures of the newspaper-produced information environment with large-scale surveys that capture the public’s awareness of their member of Congress. This shows the contemporary effects of newspapers on representative-specific awareness are one-half to one-third estimates from earlier eras. Despite this decline newspapers remain an important contributor to political awareness in a changing media landscape, even for those with limited political interest. These results establish broader scope conditions under which the public can learn from the media environment.
KeywordsPolitical communication Media and politics Media decline Political information
The author thanks Dustin Carnahan, Shanto Iyengar, Shiro Kuriwaki and Sean Westwood for helpful comments.
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