Associate Professor of Economics & Public Policy at Brown University
A flood of newspapers made their endorsements for the Presidential election in the past few days. In fact, the day with most endorsements is typically nine days before an election - this past Sunday. Obama now holds a 2-to-1 advantage in endorsements over McCain, according to Editor and Publisher. This pattern stands in stark contrast to 2000 and 2004, when roughly half of papers endorsed Bush.
Will Obama's lead in endorsement help him? Do they even matter?
They sure do. In a study, we found that endorsements matter big time - in certain circumstances. We examined data on voting intentions of newspaper readers before and after the publication of endorsements in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections.
The influence of endorsements depends upon the political orientation of the newspaper. Endorsements for Al Gore in 2000 from papers considered liberal, such as the New York Times, convinced less than one percent of voters to switch from George W. Bush to Gore. The endorsement for Gore from more conservative papers, such the Denver Post, had a much larger effect, convincing more than three percent of voters to switch sides.
Given Bush's razor-thin margin of victory, our analysis suggests that Gore would have won the election had he been able to secure a few more newspaper endorsements in key battleground states like Florida. And likewise for Kerry in 2004, where two of the largest newspapers in the battleground state of Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer, endorsed Bush.
What does this all mean for 2008? Editor and Publisher reports many right-leaning newspapers are endorsing Obama over McCain. The Chicago Tribune, for example, is endorsing a Democrat for the first time in its history. We expect that these cross-over endorsements to be particularly influential because they carry more weight than endorsements from papers that always support the Democrat.
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